'Crossing Over' materials and cultures with Vincenzo de Cotiis

STIR speaks to the Italian designer who defines Crossing Over as a “research on contamination”, replete with sculptural armchairs and sturdy tables that adopt urban imagery.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Apr 13, 2021

Italian architect and artist Vincenzo de Cotiis’s latest body of work, Crossing Over, is a meditation that revolves around creating contemporary urban imagery, where "cities become the place of contamination and culture of displacement". Avant-garde and poetically brutalist, layered and functionally simple, the pieces range from “tables structured by stilts that encompass the East to La Serenissima, wall paintings that reflect the many contradictions of the city, seats sculpted like African thrones and containers like anthropomorphic urns; where the formal and material appearance becomes the voice for an unprecedented and unheard-of language,” he explains.

“Crossing Over is research on contamination. All that is layered inside me, which belongs to me, but above all, what I still haven’t encountered yet.”

Hand painted DC2005 Side Table in recycled fiberglass, ebony | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
Hand painted DC2005 Side Table in recycled fiberglass, ebony Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

de Cotiis, based in Milan, Italy, is known for creating uniquely timeless art and luxury collectable designs, and relies mostly on the beauty of the patina generated by time for them. Glass, marble, wood, resin, patinised stones and metal, as well as recycled fibreglass are some of the main materials employed for Crossing Over, signifying the cross-pollination of cultures, stories, and materials in the hybrid form the objects take on. Like an ethnologist, de Cotiis studies the differences and similarities found within time periods, across forms and societies, focusing on the ways they 'contaminate' each other and brings it into these limited edition pieces.  

Considered one of the protagonists of the international contemporary design scene, his works are exhibited at his gallery in Milan, and at leading international design fairs such as Design Miami / Basel, Design Dubai, and Art Paris. STIR speaks to de Cotiis about what consolidated and led to Crossing Over, which is currently on show till June 3, 2021 at Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery in Milan.

Untitled 2, Artwork, mixed media on wood board (back), DC2002 Coffee table in marble (front) | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
Untitled 2, Artwork, mixed media on wood board (back), DC2002 Coffee table in marble (front) Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

Jincy Iype (JI) : What lies at the core of Crossing Over? Why is the collection named so?

Vincenzo de Cotiis (VDC): I focus on all anthropomorphic forms that outline the history of man, becoming timeless visionary symbols. The presence of neo-primitive lymph is a contamination, a crossing. The material mix of the organic and monolithic with the recycled have always been fundamental parts of my creative process.

The migration and contamination of cultures are among the primary influences of this collection. There is a representation of a graphic world, which originates from the contemporary aesthetics of urban cities and civilisations. Through blacks and whites, strokes and textures, volumes emerge that unite both. There are some admittedly anthropomorphic works, such as the urn and some seating. These reinterpret the history of man, becoming today’s visionary symbols.

Untitled 11, sculpture in Murano glass, resin | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
Untitled 11, sculpture in Murano glass, resin Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery
Untitled 5, Handpainted sculpture in recycled fiberglass, marble, Murano glass | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
Untitled 5, Handpainted sculpture in recycled fiberglass, marble, Murano glass Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

JI: What prompted the design of the displayed pieces and how was the process carried out?

VDC: It starts off with a sketch, but more often than that it is driven by the material and form. So, these objects change shape, reduce or metamorphosis during the conceptual as well as the manufacturing process. Abstraction along with undoing and doing functional aspects of objects is a process that fascinates me and has led to this collection.

Every gesture is an artistic one if dictated by a free expression. In my case, the expression is the result of sedimentation, sometimes laboriously long, intellectual, and instinctive. I am infinitely more interested in a piece or idea that can also become much more in the future, like how materials take on a different identity, patinating over time.

Untitled 12, hand painted sculpture in cast brass, recycled fiberglass, Murano glass | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
Untitled 12, hand painted sculpture in cast brass, recycled fiberglass, Murano glass Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery
This is a journey. An exploration in search of places, places I have seen and spaces that exist in my imagination. I have pursued cultures in search of symbols and iconographies that could overlap with mine. – Vincenzo de Cotiis

JI: How does being an architect translate into this body of collectable design? Who and what inspires you?

VDC: You can see a lot of architecture and features of an urban city here, with their own absolute geometries and colours. Materials swirled in time become the protagonists, sculptural, overcoming matter and form itself.

It is difficult to name people or stylistic currents. I consider myself omnivorous, I feed on many different stimuli spanning art, architecture, people and imagery. But I can say that I prefer the years from 1930 to 1980, in which great experiments associated with an earnest quest for knowledge and quality was gospel. Today I see many aesthetically powerful but superficial things, continuous reinterpretations, and copies of other things. In my own way, I try to perpetuate something that has been lost, suiting it to the future and the present.

Apart from that, I have always been influenced by old Italian masters like Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti and Joe Colombo.

DC2006 Side table in recycled fiberglass, cast brass | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
DC2006 Side table in recycled fiberglass, cast brass Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

JI: What made you choose these materials?

VDC: The recovery of materials is a fundamental part of the development of Crossing Over and becomes its primary creative act. Fiberglass, recycled and new, glass, stone and metals combine in new assembly processes and contribute to a new organic amalgam. I sought to fuse materials that looked like they did not belong together, and put them in a chorus that imbibed a solid character. These are also the perfect examples of materials that have been used for centuries, like wood or brass, 'contaminating' themselves with relatively newer ones like resin and fibreglass.

DC2003 Hand painted coffee table in recycled fiberglass and black fiberglass | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
DC2003 Hand painted coffee table in recycled fiberglass and black fiberglass Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery
DC2007, Hand painted side table in recycled fiberglass, cast brass | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
DC2007, Hand painted side table in recycled fiberglass, cast brass Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

JI: Is there a particular reason why you wanted to focus on “the passage of time”? How have your life’s experiences been reflected in this sturdy yet sculptural collection?

VDC: Time is all-encompassing. It is unequivocal, and there is nothing that escapes it. It is part of our way of being, of living. It has always fascinated me.

Research, abstraction and nature guide my interior architecture interventions, art and collectable design pieces, and continue to do so, where the study of time and its effects on these take centre stage. Time is boundaryless, which is something I like to place my works at, both physical and intellectual. Attention to the existing, paired with the fertile dialogue between old and new are among my cornerstones; history breaks free into the spaces where the line between past and future blends.

  • DC2012A, Armchair in black recycled fiberglass, suede | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
    DC2012A, Armchair in black recycled fiberglass, suede Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery
  • Untitled 9, sculpture in Murano glass, resin | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
    Untitled 9, sculpture in Murano glass, resin Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

JI: You have been working around materials, objects and spaces for a long time – how has your practice evolved through the journey?

VDC: You can certainly see the differences by looking at my earlier works. They were more brutalist and modest, minimalist in their expressions. Each collection has different inspirations and I often use new, experimental materials and pair them with older ones to create an unconventional pairing. My current works seem to follow a more fluid, poetic as well as and intellectual vocabulary, rooted in the need to create something timeless.

DC2013B, Armchair in recycled fiberglass, stone, fabric | Crossing Over | Vincenzo De Cotiis | STIRworld
DC2013B, Armchair in recycled fiberglass, stone, fabric Image: Courtesy of Vincenzo De Cotiis Gallery

JI: What is next for you?

VDC: My intuition and fantasy fuel my endless creativity. Of course, some exhibitions and realisations have been suspended, but my creativity is constantly stimulated and continually prompts me to create. I travel thanks to my imagination. I am constantly working on new projects because it is a continuous and uninterrupted process; a way of life.

Carpenters Workshop Gallery is going to present my body of work titled Éternel, in New York, from May 3 – September 15, 2021. I am also working on my solo show, which will be presented in Miami in December this year.

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