A look inside a new exhibition of Rick Owens’ furniture, on show in London now – plus, the designer tells AnOther about his approach to interiors
Rick Owens’ desire to expand beyond the realms of fashion, into the worlds of interiors and furniture, has been well documented over the past decade. Many of his early pieces felt elemental – monolithic black and wood seats which fused graphic shapes with organic materials such as deer antlers – and are far beyond your run-of-the-mill furniture, bordering on sculpture and garnering attention in the art world, as well as shows at MOCA Los Angeles.
When speaking to Owens about his approach to interiors and furniture, what is striking is his literacy in the last 50 years of art; his work blends punk with minimalism, the abstraction of Frank Stella with the edge of cult New York artist Steven Parrino. The designer’s latest exhibition – titled Glade, on show at Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery in London now – was produced by his wife, creative collaborator and business partner Michèle Lamy and quietly reimagines the possibilities of interiors.
The impetus for his approach to space is firmly rooted in 20th-century design; the work in this exhibition specifically calls upon 1960s Brutalist architecture and interiors. “I think I started from Brutalism and then merged it into Arte Povera, much like my attraction to Art Deco merged into Art Nouveau. What’s funny is that my personal progress was the reverse of their actual historical progression,” Owens tells AnOther. “There is a Giuseppe Penone room lined with laurel leaves at the Centre Pompidou that we return to again and again. We both agree that that room, attached to the Joseph Beuys felt room, with a Carl Andre zinc plate floor, would make the ideal home.”
Featuring sculptural head pieces from the designer’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, presented at Paris Fashion Week last month, Glade also reflects a strong connection to natural environment. “All of this is linked by a sense of living insulation that I likened to glade in a forest,” he says. “A clearing that was at once womb-like and grand.” Yet the work feels very modern, too: Owens integrated technology into these designs – lighting, WiFi and phone chargers. “The digital age is part of evolution and the pursuit of knowledge and information and self-awareness is the meaning of life,” he explains. “The tools to get there are a form of art.”
Over the years, Owens has developed a number of signature materials – concrete, bone and interestingly textured French wool army blankets – which for him contain metaphorical resonance. “The relics of war are a reminder of the fragility of peace and protection and remind us to value our safety and security,” he says. His signature chair is the ‘prong seat’, made from aluminium, with a distinctive curved shape with lines protruding from its form. “When we first started the furniture collection, our manifesto was to reduce our needs to a fur on a rock next to a fire in a cave. These prongs are our signature rocks faceted in a very specific combo of corners, curves and planes that spoke to us.”
Owens has done something many fashion houses have attempted and failed: created work that is very credible in both the fashion, design, and art arenas. Despite crossing over into different worlds, his concept and approach remain the same and totally uncomprimising to his vision. “Furniture is just an outer layer of a look. An extended personal expression,” he says. “Doesn’t everyone want to customise the space around them in one way or another? We just turned it into a personal game of catch.”
Glade is on show at Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London until October 25, 2019.