Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“Rick Owens: Furniture,” at MOCA, Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, California

The relationship between art, fashion, and design is a relationship that’s fraught with tension and conflict. The late Dore Ashton said of contemporary artists who explore other arts such as fashion, architecture, etc. “born into a situation of mutation, extension and expansion... (the American Artist) is not laden with dogmatic strictures and moves freely among the arts.” Rick Owens (b. 1961), a Paris-based fashion designer, creates a furniture line along with his partner Michèle Lamy. Owens fits Ashton’s description of an artist who is unconstrained, and one who moves freely among the arts.  Owens’s works look deceptive when one enters the gallery a first glance. They are minimalist in their form and aesthetic. Shapes and material give way to function. Owen’s furniture references past sculptors such as Donald Judd, or David Smith.

However, Owens is not satisfied with just being a furniture maker. Instead, Owens wants to have a dialog with the late painter Steven Parrino (1958 – 2005) whose canvases are spread throughout the gallery. Parrino’s paintings for this show are concerned with textures and tactility. The addition of Parrino’s work is interesting. Parrino died in 2005 from injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident. Parrino was a rebel whose interests included Punk Rock, Biker culture, and the Occult. Parrino was unrestrained by aesthetic judgments that may hamper and hinder other artists. Instead it was live free, and die young. Owens has an affinity for Parrino and it shows. The creases and folds in Parrino’s paintings juxtaposes the material and solidity of Owens’ furniture.  Owens furniture designs are not made for comfort. Instead they are sculptural meant to maintain the weight, volume, and materials. With the emphasis of material, Owens does not betray his work as a fashion designer. The dialog with Parrino’s paintings allow Owens to move beyond the boundaries that occupy the realms of design and art. The interesting question is whether Owen’s furniture can stand on their own as sculptures without Parinno’s paintings being present as an anchor that creates a context that goes beyond mere furniture design and fashion.  

On view through April 2, 2017

MOCA Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069

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