“We need to aim at essential things, to remove every redundant effects, every useless flowering, to elaborate a concept on mathematical bases, on fundamental ideas, on elementary structures; we strongly need to avoid waste and excess.”
So said A.G. Fronzoni, designer of beautiful and austere minimalism. I only learned of his work many years after his death in 2002, and I regret having missed the opportunity to meet him. He was an Italian graphic, furniture and exhibition designer and architect who was born in Pistoia in 1923 and died in 2002. He edited magazines such as Punta and Casabella and was a teacher first at the Società Umanitaria, then at the Istituto d’ Arte of Monza and the Istituto delle Industrie Artistiche in Urbino, and finally at his own school in Milan in 1987. But his name is largely unknown in the U.S. In 2014, I interviewed Sébastien Hayez, the designer who is the force behind the Fronzoni website. Just the other day Madlen Göhring contacted me about a book she’s crowdfunding titled What A.G. Fronzoni Taught Us. While I usually do not promote Kickstarter campaigns (because I’m deluged with them), this collection of thoughts and ideas piqued my interest. I asked Ms. Göhring to discuss her own passionate interest in Fronzoni’s work and words.
Tell the uninitiated who Fronzoni was, and why he is important today.
A.G. Fronzoni (1923–2002) is usually presented as a minimalist. Minimalism, however, should not be compared with reduction as an end in itself. Fronzoni wasn’t interested in removing, but rather in accumulating and concentrating substance.
Fronzoni refused to write, and maybe for this reason was never properly introduced into the design history canon. We find ourselves today in a constantly evolving world with an abundance of contemporary graphic design. Those who came before us are often forgotten while we are looking for the next big thing. Nevertheless, this book wants to close at least this gap in the history of graphic design.
In his work as a designer and architect based in Milan, he pursued the very essence of things, focusing on the core, removing everything superfluous.
He became a teacher soon after he started his career. Many years later, Fronzoni founded his own school, the Scuola Bottega, which was influential to a whole generation of graphic designers and architects. Teaching was his preferred way of multiplying knowledge.
How did this material come to you?
There are over 50 hours of his lectures on record, which Christian Aichner, one of the authors, received from Fronzoni, along with the request to put them into a book one day. Each lecture was titled “Corso di Grafica.” Like their naming suggests, all of them are surprisingly consistent. Although they were recorded throughout different locations and periods spanning almost a decade, their content and the wording remained almost identical, as if it was repeated mechanically.
Each one of Fronzoni’s lectures doesn’t just offer an insight into his work, but also into a beautiful mind. During the 1990s, he had already developed a concept for interdisciplinary design. He insisted that design was more than merely a profession, but rather a way of life.
What do you want the reader to get from the book?
Besides a transcription of his teachings, this book consists of chapters attaining to Fronzoni’s work, life and way of thinking. A range of guest authors (Christian Aichner, Ruedi Baur and Alessadro Mendini) cover subjects such as color, space, attitude and typography.
The six chapters are arranged in between a selection of Fronzoni’s posters. These posters offer a meta-access into the universe of his visual language.
If you were to point to one or two Fronzoni icons, what would they be?
The one most commonly known, without a doubt, is the poster for a Lucio Fontana show 1966 at Galleria La Polena in Genoa, Italy. Some years later, Fronzoni himself became angry whenever he was reduced to this single poster. He designed lots of posters, since he considers them to be the most important museum in the world. One exhibition piece of this supposed museum, and my personal favorite, is the plexiglas poster for the exhibition opening of his friend, the artist A.G. Bertolio. Sometimes, this poster is occasionally referred to as the color of transparency.
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