Sexy Ettore Sottsass and Nasty, Nasty Noguchi: Artist Robert Fontanelli Puts the S&M in Modernism

"Eames as burlesque star," 2012

While design wonks like ourselves frequently lust over pieces of furniture, it’s a rare thing for that desire to cross the threshold into eroticism. New York-based artist, graphic designer, and self-described “obsessive collector of art and objects” Robert Fontanelli’s work does just that and more, taking celebrated design icons, from Vernor Panton’s Cone Chair to Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo shoe, to places our imaginations haven’t previously ventured.

Fontanelli’s iconoclastic watercolor paintings, done in a style that hybridizes fashion designer sketches with the most artful vein of pornography, subverts the venerated idols of our design pantheon as symbols of sexuality and sadism in way that address our dark, primal urges. They feature a mix of human and industrial subjects in the throes of varying degrees of violence: a Noguchi table forcing itself onto a red Eames Chair, for example; a naked man riding that same Noguchi table; more naked men bound in an Eames Shelving Unit. The bondage and palpable power struggles evoke a body-tensing visceral reaction, although his latest crop of paintings, to go up for sale on our favorite online purveyor of contemporary quirk,, are decidedly more tame and almost sweet in comparison. This time around, they’re wearing more clothes, ones that address more contemporary pieces we’ve been seeing in the news lately. There are shoes paying homage to the soon-to-be-refurbished Mies van der Rohe gas station in Montreal, and a scarf in the likeness of Damien Hirst‘s “Spot Painting” bonanza. Fontanelli was kind enough to offer us a preview, pictured below.

"Bludot sprout table versus MAC cosmetics," 2012

"Clay Ketter kitchen cabinets," 2012

"Gas station shoes," 2012

"Marco Zanuso arm chair," 2012

And a few of our older favorites:

"So happy you're home (aroused sofa)," 2012

"Strap-on table and vase gloves," 2010

"Sofa hat vanity shoes table skirt," 2009

"Storage," 1999

— Janelle Zara