Rick Owens. Prehistoric
9 September - 1 November 2013 at Carpenters Gallery, London.
A Southern California native, the designer Rick Owens displays a demanding and singular aesthetic in fashion. His original vision plays on material. He has lived and worked in Paris for the past nine years but the dark, minimalist style of his designs was created in the United States. He is a huge film fan with a particular penchant for the black and white productions of thirties Hollywood with their sensual and tragic contrasts and values. He tends toward the reconciliation of light and darkness in his work, much like the cinematic masterpieces from this era.
The garment is mobile, fluid and asymmetrical, and as such can be shifted and recomposed an infinite number of times. However, the exercise is different with furniture: it is designed to last, it becomes our heritage. It is part of our daily lives fulfilling a function, providing the domestic space with a rhythm and a reference.
This unusual research for a fashion designer is not completely unprecedented, Poiret. Lanvin. Rei Kawakubo and others have all ventured into furniture design at one time or another. Rick Owens. who started by making bespoke furniture for his bunker-style loft in L.A.. has moved continents. He now lives in Paris and his urge to create has taken a different tack: "As vie settled in. and Hun started looking around: the city and time, might have done something to us". In tandem with craftsmen of the highest caliber, he has developed a collection of pieces that express his signature style in cut, volume and plan. Prehistoric is a take on the immutable passage of time in shapes, materials and images.
Rick Owens designs evoke original furniture through archetypes. There are a number of typologies: the ceremonial chair Curial. the Trident chair and its structure, the armchair from a chest Ha!Ibex. the Roman Daybed. the private resting space of the Boudeuse couch: he reintroduces the Screen that becomes an alcove, wall or sculpture in addition to the big dining table Plug Table.
Through his choice of subtle and rare materials, Rick Owens suggests the beauty of original nature and develops a contrasting palette of black and white that confirms the designer's taste for the monochrome. The 500.000 year old fossilized wood throws up subtle nuances of smoked brown and the blackened plywood provides a counterpoint to the lighter tones: alabaster, a sublime material used by sculptors in Sumerian times whose transparent pallor echoes the color of the ivory of a cow's bone. Dealt with in juxtaposition. the values come together and compose a three-dimensional piece that is totally relevant to the designer's own style. He cuts and shapes a transversal and global universe, from fashion to furniture.
Rick Owens was born in Porterville, California. His mother, a skilled seamstress, used to make clothes for him until he was thirteen or fourteen. “I always dressed him like a little gentleman,” she later tells the The New Yorker. After graduating from high school he moves to Los Angeles to attend Otis-Parsons art institute. He later drops out and takes a pattern-making course. He would later start working at a sportswear factory owned by Michèle Lamy, his future business partner, muse, and wife.
Eventually he starts selling clothes to Charles Gallay, a boutique owner who built his reputation on avant-garde brands like Martin Margiela and Azzedine Alaïa. Barneys New York will later pick up the Rick Owens line. In 2001 he moves to Paris. In 2005 he introduces a furniture collection made of plywood, antlers, alabaster, and marble. In 2010 he shows a furniture installation, “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” in New York’s Salon 94 gallery. “It’s my bedroom but transformed into alabaster,” he says.
All images Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery
Carpenters Workshop Gallery
3 Albermarle Street, Mayfair
London W1S4HE United Kingdom
Ph. +44 (0)20 3051 5939
Monday - Friday from 10am to 6pm
Saturday on appointment only