THE NEW BOOTLEGGERS: FABRICATING (IM)PROPRIETY
a group exhibition curated by Leonard Fresquez
516 ARTS, Albuquerque, NM
November 2018 - February 2019
For Currency at 516 Arts in Albuquerque, Leonard Fresquez organized The New Bootleggers: Fabricating (Im)propriety, a faux storefront stocked with illicit goods produced by 22 artists. Set up in the style of a bootleg retail store, the installation illuminates knockoff/bootleg culture and black market capitalism. This artistic subversion of authenticity calls into question the billion dollar counterfeit goods industry and the impact it has on our economy. Participating artists include: Sven Barth, Sterling Bartlett, Raven Chacon, Marissa Chavez, Brendan Donnelly, Max Farber, Stefan Fitzgerald, Leonard Fresquez, Ry Fyan, Thomas Christopher Haag, Internet Discount Mall, Ken Kagami, Malcolm Kenter, Manuel Montoya, Will Michelson, Rye Purvis, Gregory Shimada, Jillian Stein, Jamie Tillotson, Scott Daniel Williams and Chase Witter. As an artistic contribution to the storefront, Leonard Fresquez presents a line of counterfeit furniture made with found objects in the iconic style of the Memphis Design Group and its founding designer Ettorre Sottsass. The faux furniture operate as designer products and also as display mechanisms for the store's merchandise.
In his latest body of work Leonard Fresquez repurposes found objects to create counterfeit furniture designs. Using found materials, abandoned furniture and furniture parts from dumpsters, sidewalks, thrift stores, flea markets, craigslist free pages, bargain bins and out of business retail stores he mimics the famous Memphis Design Group's iconic 20th century style. His line of seating, tables, displays, sculptures and decorative objects riff on the design movement’s quintessential lines and colorful asymmetrical shapes.
The Memphis Group was an Italian design and architecture group active between 1981 and 1988. Founded by Ettore Sottsass, the firm incorporated plastic laminate and colorful decoration in the design of their furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass, and metal objects. With success that reached far beyond their Milan homebase, the Memphis Group continues to be arguably one of the most copied and influential designers of the 20th century. Throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s and again in the last 5 years, the groups influence is evident in the lurid swirling graphics and colorful geometric shapes in advertising, logo design, department store architecture, playgrounds and more. Logo and set designs on such popular TV shows as Saved by the Bell, Seinfeld, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse were all stylistic derivatives of Memphis Group and Ettore Sottsass.
The Memphis design movement has reemerged as some of the most sought after design pieces at premier auction houses, been featured in Supreme collaborations, and an in 2017 had an exhibit at the Met Breuer in New York. Valentino recently designed an ad campaign based solely on the ‘80s design group and West Elm even used the iconic Memphis squiggle in their recent designs. The original designers from Memphis Group are seeing more royalties than ever.
But not all of the influence is sanctioned. Copies of Memphis Group pieces have been sold in galleries and auctions for thousands even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Memphis Group's official suppliers in Milan acknowledge counterfeiting as a problem and insist that each piece is supplied with a numbered label as well as a certificate of authenticity. This particular phenomenon fascinated Leonard -- who also works as a vintage modern design dealer -- and led to the creation of this recent work.