Italian architect and designer Gaetano Pesce (b. 1939) has been proudly declaring his “right to be incoherent” since he was a teenager, although his revolutionary Up furniture series is anything but. Pesce’s two chairs and a love seat, which were followed by his armchair, were constructed of high-density polyurethane foam when they debuted in 1969. Shaped like a female torso, the overtly curvaceous Up chair, which he called “Donna,” was inspired by statues of ancient fertility goddesses. An elastic cable connected the seat to a ball-shaped ottoman. Pesce’s provocative ball-and-chain-styled art furniture was commentary on what the designer saw as social imprisonment for women, who are mistreated and subjugated all over the world by patriarchal structures.
Pesce conceived of the Up series — made by C&B Italia and later reintroduced by B&B Italia — when he was in the shower. He took notice of his sponge’s rubbery quality. He wondered: Could furniture resume its physical form and volume right after it was compressed, like the sponge? Pesce was a proponent of mass production for furniture, and he ensured that each piece of his polyurethane-foam Up series could be vacuumed and flattened to one-tenth its volume for cheap and easy shipping. Once opened, the pieces would pop up into their original shape.