Malaparte: A House Like Me
By Michael McDonough
Malaparte: A House Like Me offers an extraordinary look at Malaparte, the man and the house. Often called the most beautiful house in the world, Casa Malaparte in Capri, Italy, is dramatically sited on a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It was home to Curzio Malaparte (1898-1957), the Italian writer who designed the building.
The surreal dimensions are shocking. The house is like a strange story of "Kaputt" where "A Basket of Oysters" is not really a reference to the sea, but finally turns out to be "forty pounds of human eyes./Steven Holl
Malaparte: A House Like Me is the result of a three year odyssey that took me to Europe, the Americas, and Asia, all in service of trying to better understand one of the world's most intriguing houses and the processes that led to its existence. Curzio Malaparte, the creator of the house, called it "Casa Malaparte," and "House Like Me." One of the 20th-century's most enigmatic figures, he was a polymath: novelist, poet, architect, filmmaker, publisher, theorist, political prisoner, and much, much more.
During my research, it became clear that if Malaparte had not been part of a "lost generation" working during Mussolini's rule, he would now rank with such figures as Breton, Kafka, de Chirico, Dalí, Picasso, and Beckett, persons he knew, published, and collaborated with. It is equally clear that, even today, the house remains provocative, an autobiographical object, a way of looking at the man and his complex life.
In exploring Malaparte and his work, I found myself meeting with ambassadors, actors, politicians, poets, computer scientists, fashion designers, artists, writers and architects. Some loathed him; others were in awe. No one was indifferent, and all were willing to have a go at the subject at hand: the man and his legacy, a chameleon life lived in revolution and war, art and literature, imprisonment and indulgence. I was also aided by the living relatives of Malaparte, who helped me pull his tattered journals and crumbling books from the house itself. Such notable personalities as Tom Wolfe, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, Peter Dafoe, Arata Isozaki, Carla Fendi (to name a few) were more than willing collaborators in helping me create this book. Beautiful photographic portfolios by Karl Lagerfeld and Mimmo Jodice are complimented by original drawings, computer renderings, collages, even a musical score. There are critical essays on architecture, film, politics, cuisine, and fascist aesthetics, and memoirs from those who knew Malaparte personally. The book was conceived as an object - after the book-objects of the Futurists and Surrealists - designed with special typefaces created for the project, and influencedby Malaparte's own arts journal, Prospettive. In retrospect, what I took away from Malaparte: A House Like Me (and what I hope to share with you) was a deeper understanding of a great artist, a controversial man who lived on the edge of danger, constantly re-inventing himself. Ultimately, art was for him the core of existence; an ironic, unknowable, elusive thing. In his life, his writing and other work, and in his house, he played-out Picasso's maxim: Art is a lie that reveals the truth.
Award-winning architect and designer Michael McDonough has realized projects in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and has lectured internationally on architecture, design, and art. He was a member of the faculty at New York University from 1978-1981, and a visiting critic at the University of Pennsylvania and the Casa Malaparte Foundation. He is currently a faculty member at Parsons School of Design in New York, where he has taught since 1984, and Director of the International Bamboo Design Research Initiative at Rhode Island School of Design.
McDonough has exhibited at such galleries and museums as Grey Art Gallery, Holly Solomon Gallery, the Pacific Design Center, and the Musée du Louvre. His work is in the permanent collection of the Berlin Museum and the Corning Museum, as well as private collections. He has written on architecture, design, and the related arts for The New York Times, Industrial Design, and Metropolis, and is a contributing editor and writer at Metropolitan Home. McDonough holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. McDonough maintains studios in New York City and the Hudson River Valley.
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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