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Around Home : Notes on Gazebos, Sconces and Teakettles : Icaro Sconce

June 12, 1988|DAVID LASKER

DOUBTLESS, Thomas Edison would be amused. Originally, lamps were simply objects to be used for reading in the dark. Then the Italians transformed them into gorgeous pieces of sculpture. Now, many contemporary high-design Italian lamps look shriveled and anorexic. The lamps themselves, however, are only half the story. Their dramatic shadow projections also serve as ornaments.

Achille Castiglione's Giovi lamp, for instance, dramatically perks up a dull wall, casting shadows that resemble flower petals (or the spokes of a wheel, or a ball of fire). Mario Botta's Shogun, by Artemide, hedges its bets with an adjustable diffuser (vaguely reminiscent, as the name suggests, of the visor in a Japanese warrior's helmet). When switched off, these lamps seem incomplete.

You don't have to be a classical scholar to enjoy the work of Carlo Forcolini, a Milanese designer, but it helps.

Forcolini's Polifemo torchier (floor lamp) for Artemide projects a kaleidoscopic pattern onto the ceiling or wall that brings to mind Cyclops, the mythic, one-eyed man-eating giant from the Odyssey.

Icaro, Forcolini's immensely popular sconce, is a reference to the mythical father-and-son team of Daedalus and Icarus that escaped from the island of Crete on wings fashioned from feathers and wax. (That is, until the impetuous Icarus flew too high and plunged into the sea when the sun's heat melted the wax.)

Forcolini's sconce represents a multiple-entendre pun on the ill-fated Icarus' flapping wings: the diffusing, cut-crystal triangle; the curved, perforated metal screen, and the screen's projected shadow, which eerily alludes to the layered feathers in a bird's wing. And the angled halogen heats the adjacent, perforated metal screen when switched on, symbolizing the sun melting Icarus' waxen wings.

Not as pretty as the sculptural lamps of yore, perhaps, but a good deal more interesting.

Carlo Forcolini's Icaro Sconce is available at Brentwood Lighting in Brentwood, Design Express, City Design and Diva, all in Los Angeles; Lighting Emporium in Reseda, Glendale and West Covina and Insight in San Diego. Prices range from $299 to about $395.

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