Angelo Testa (1921 – 1984) was an American fabric designer. He studied at the Institute of Design, Chicago, to 1945. As well as being a fabric designer, he was a painter and sculptor.
He designed the 1941 Little Man abstract floral fabric, widely published and hailed as a new direction in textile design. It all began, in fact, with a doodle. A free-form sketch with a dancing shape that intrigued its artist. He repeated the curious pattern, setting two others like it in a row, the first darkened within its boundaries, higher than its companions; the second shaded a tad lighter; and the third blank.
Little Man (Furnishing Fabric)
The “little man” was to have an enormous impact on the textile industry, for it eventually became part of the first collection of abstract fabrics to be mass-produced in the United States (1947), a revolutionary figure amid floral and pictorial motifs of the day.
While the traditionalists did not know what to make of Testa’s abstract designs which were banned in Boston, the designer became a hero to the contemporary architects and interior decorators who espused the “less is more” philosophy that later became known as the Bauhaus School.
He introduced abstract and non-objective motifs into the commercial textile design in the USA; produced motifs including Diagonals, Space Dashes, Forms within Forms, Line in Act, and Experiment in Space. Some of these had matching wallpapers.
Clients included Greeff, Forster, Cohn-Hall-Marx, and Knoll. He executed patterns for plastic laminates, types of vinyl, and fibreglass panels — work subject of 1983 ‘Angelo Testa’ exhibition, College of Architecture, Chicago. Fabric designs included in 1984 ‘Design Since 1945’ exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
A sample of his work
DRAWING, TEXTILE DESIGN: ABSTRACTION IN RED AND BLACK, 1950S
DRAWING, TEXTILE DESIGN: ABSTRACT DESIGN IN PINK AND BLACK, 1950s
TEXTILE, FILO, 1942
TEXTILE, STILTS, 1951
DRAWING, TEXTILE DESIGN: FLAWSAT, CA. 1950
DRAWING, TEXTILE DESIGN: INDIAN HEADS, 1943
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.
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