Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

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Bruno Munari and The Art of Il Gesto

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A gesture says it all

A wave, a finger, a thumbs up. The hand says it all and long before emojis, the hand gesture was the premier pioneer of communication. No one does gestures better Italians. Il gesto is the start and end of conversations, convictions and relationships all with the flip of a wrist. Appreciation, attraction, exasperation, anger, hunger, love – we have one for every emotion, attitude and occasion. Gesturing is a passion, a past time, and a rite of passage. In fact, some say you’ll never be truly fluent in Italian until you learn the gestures. Consider them a cross-cultural dialect which once you master, you’ll be able to make anyone in the world understand your point

“When we gesture it’s because we have so much Issimo inside and we love to let the passion out,”

ISSIMO gesto tee-shirt

“When we gesture it’s because we have so much Issimo inside and we love to let the passion out,” explains ML who launches ISSIMO with three limited edition t-shirts featuring Bruno Munari hand gestures.

Bruno who? If there is anyone who personifies a gesture it’s avant-garde graphic designer Bruno Munari. Munari codified Italy’s best-loved in his quirky “Supplemento al dizionario italiano” (Supplement to the Italian Dictionary, 1958). Published as an introductory guide, Munari’s Supplemento quickly became an obsessive compendium encapsulating Italians love and use of these expressive hand movements. 

“Munari is a true genius – a designer, thinker and artist. His book shows how simple and fun they are, and how our gestures give the world a little allegria every day,” comments Marie-Louise.

Marie-Louise picked three of the most iconic gestures for her t-shirts – corna (pinky and the index finger extend downward while the middle and ring fingers are held in the palm under the thumb), eccellente (hand flat, facing up with index and thumb touching) and che vuoi (pursed fingers, hand moving back and forth). Black-and-white prints on a crisp white tee, the vibe is cool and collectible, like your favourite rock star or concert t-shirt. You know, the one you are never giving away.

Bruno Munari

Munari would love them. Obsession with a little humour was fundamental to his life-long philosophy which emphasised enjoyment and art in every aspect and spanned nearly one hundred years. Born in Milan in 1907, Munari grew up in the Veneto countryside. In mid-1920s, he returned to a post-war Milan where he worked as in advertising and graphic design with Italy’s Futurists including FT Marinetti, launching a career as one of the main protagonists of 20th century art and design.

Painter, performer, designer and inventor, Munari was Italy’s modern Renaissance man and a key player in almost every moment through the late 1990s. Futurism, Concrete Art, Abstract, Surrealism, Kinetism, you name it he was there — painting, sculpture, film, industrial design, graphic design, performance, writing and poetry. His design aesthetic was seen across the country and infiltrated the world as he created iconic visual style of brands like Campari.

In the 1950s and 60s, when Milan hit the scene as a fulcrum of art, design and business, Munari’s designs dominated the publishing, illustration and advertising worlds. Somehow, he found time to write children’s books, eventually teaming up with writer Gianni Rodari for a series of stories featuring his colorful, geometric and often abstract illustrations.

By the 1970s, Munari brought it all into the school house and changed up learning methods with “Playing with Art”, workshops which radically transformed the understanding of museum didactics and aesthetic-artistic education. In other words, getting your hands involved in art.    

At the end of the day, it all goes back to the gesto.

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