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The Art of Totems

Each week we bring you a trio of Good Things in art and design, chosen from the infinite creative archives of Present & Correct

Fruit Totem
Fruit Totem Courtesy of Raw Color: Nowness Martin Creed x Pierre Gagnaire, 2012

Good Things presents a towering array of totemic art from master of the form Ettore Sottsass to Raw Color's beautiful stacks of fruit

Totems and stacks, like towers and skyscrapers, have long fascinated humans. Arranging things skywards, to create monoliths from all manner of objects, has gone from something with spiritual significance to an aesthete's dream. Here is a stack of our favourites from recent times.

Godfather of the Memphis movement, Ettore Sottsass, created many a modern totem. Stacks of smooth, pleasing shapes finished in the most desirable of palettes. His influence is clear to see throughout a lot of more recent work.

Ettore Sottsass Totems
Ettore Sottsass Totems
Burma Totem by Ettore Sottsass
Burma Totem by Ettore Sottsass
Ettore Sottsass Totem
Ettore Sottsass Totem
Ettore Sottsass Totem
Ettore Sottsass Totems
Rangoon Totem by Ettore Sottsass
Rangoon Totem by Ettore Sottsass
Alain Delorme’s series Totems sees the tradesmen, and women, of Shanghai transporting their wares on the backs of bikes. Manipulated to the extreme, the results show stacks of precarious everyday items moving around the vast city.
Totem #7
Totem #7 Photography by Alain Delorme
Totem #16
Totem #16 Photography by Alain Delorme
Totem #8
Totem #8 Photography by Alain Delorme
Totem #11
Totem #11 Photography by Alain Delorme
Totem #17
Totem #17 Photography by Alain Delorme
One of our favourite collectives Raw Color have taken stacking to an art form, turning regular fruit into works of art. Their layered stones and blocks are also worth a gander.
Fruit Totem
Fruit Totem Courtesy of Raw Color: Nowness Martin Creed x Pierre Gagnaire, 2012
Fruit Totem
Fruit Totem Courtesy of Raw Color: Nowness Martin Creed x Pierre Gagnaire, 2012
Block Totem
Block Totem Courtesy of Raw Color
Fruit Totem
Fruit Totem Courtesy of Raw Color: Nowness Martin Creed x Pierre Gagnaire, 2012
Block Totem
Block Totem Courtesy of Raw Color
This collection of towers by Oeuffice also functions as boxes and stools. Storage doesn’t get better than this.
Dorik Kapital Totem by Oeuffice
Dorik Kapital Totem by Oeuffice
Ionik Kapital Totem by Oeuffice
Ionik Kapital Totem by Oeuffice
Beqaa Pixel Ziggurat Container by Oeuffice
Beqaa Pixel Ziggurat Container by Oeuffice
Loewen Stripes Ziggurat Container by Oeuffice
Loewen Stripes Ziggurat Container by Oeuffice
Laveer Totem by Oeuffice
Laveer Totem by Oeuffice
We all interact with stacks of books on a daily basis, and a couple of artists are taking that familiarity to the next level with perfectly arranged tomes. Paul Octavius creates letters, numbers and symbols from candy coloured books, whilst Yarisal & Kublitz have set theirs into plaster to create beautiful geometric towers.
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION ©2011 Paul Octavious C.
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION ©2011 Paul Octavious C.
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION ©2011 Paul Octavious C.
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION
Book Totem from the BOOK COLLECTION ©2011 Paul Octavious C.
Totem, 2011
Totem, 2011 Artwork by Yarisal & Kublitz
Totem, 2011
Totem, 2011 Artwork by Yarisal & Kublitz
A table which is also a bit like a giant toy. Mia Hamborg's totem table allows you to shift it around every day. Like a brilliant kebab.
Mia Hamborg's Totem Table
Mia Hamborg's Totem Table

Present & Correct is a design blog and stationery store in London founded by graphic designers Neal Whittington and Mark Smith.

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