Inventory Number: OWR009
Size: 29.72h x 25.59w x 20.47d in
Year Made: 2014
In his furniture designs and in Onedent, Rick Owens restricts himself to a geometric repertoire of cubes, rectangles, capsules, and shallow curves. Among his sources of inspiration, he has said, are German bunkers and buildings by the ornament-phobic architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. At his Paris headquarters, he works in partnership with his wife, French-born Michèle Lamy, to commission the furniture as limited editions. The raw materials include petrified wood, animal skins, basalt, alabaster, resin, bronze, concrete, and blackened plywood, and oxbone; the material used to create this work.
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Since 2005 or so, the California-born fashion designer Rick Owens has not been content just dressing people. He has developed lines of furniture, in jarring juxtapositions of materials and shapes, in addition to engulfing runway models in misplaced sweatshirt sleeves and slashed rubber, hiding their faces in gauzy hair helmets, or dangling them upside down from their peers’ shoulders. He has described the furniture as representing “a Brutalist fur on a Brutalist rock next to a Brutalist fire in a Brutalist cave.”[i]
On Owens’s chairs, couches, beds, daybeds, stools, tables, screens, shelving units, and lighting fixtures, he restricts himself to a geometric repertoire of cubes, rectangles, capsules, and shallow curves. Among his sources of inspiration, he has said, are German bunkers and buildings by the ornament-phobic architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.[ii] At his Paris headquarters, he works in partnership with his wife, French-born Michèle Lamy, to commission the furniture as limited editions. The raw materials include petrified wood, animal skins and bones, basalt, alabaster, resin, bronze, concrete, and blackened plywood. His teams of artisans create improbably long cantilevers out of the tabletops, bed platforms, and bookshelves. Moose antlers serve as single arms on chairs in the shape of a lowercase “h”. Tan and black upholstery over the years has been offered in cashmere, mink, beaver pelts, and camel skins.
In a 2018 email, he described his and Lamy’s interactions with local woodworkers and other craftspeople as “relationships that lead to other relationships that blossom into collaborations that flow into an experimental psychotropic aesthetic love festival.” He wrote that the furniture is particularly well suited to his Paris headquarters, where the effect is “part Cecil B. DeMille, part Joseph Beuys, and part leather bar.”
His upbringing and youthful adventures and misadventures in California have played some role in the evolution of the furniture lines. He was born in 1961, the only child of John and Connie Owens, respectively a social worker and a teacher. Their house in suburban Porterville, in central California (between Fresno and Bakersfield), was a conservative place. No television was allowed for most of his childhood, and he was given a steady diet of ancient philosophy to read and classical albums to play. He attended a Catholic elementary school, and he grew up trying futilely to tamp down his desires to be rebellious and flamboyant. In 2018, he described his parents’ home décor as “based on modest efficiency. The emphasis was more on my father’s books and classical music collection.”
After high school he spent a few years studying fine art at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles but then dropped out. “I didn’t think I had the intellectual stamina for it, so I decided to be a fashion designer, because that was frivolous and easy,” he told The New York Times in 2017.[iii] He learned pattern-making skills instead. By 1994, he had persuaded retailers to carry his clothing made of recycled fabrics. In 2003, he and Lamy, who has worked over the years as a restaurateur as well as a designer, moved to Paris. They set up a home and office in a seventeenth-century building formerly used by Socialist politicians. Wood ceiling beams, concrete floors, and electrical wires have been left exposed, along with some original plaster wall reliefs in the form of ribbons and flowers.
As his workforce has grown he found it sensible to broaden his ventures to include clothing design and furniture manufacturing. He and Lamy “needed more things to accommodate the people who were joining us and these furnishings needed to be part of that world.”
Journalists over the years have come up with a fascinating array of metaphors for Owens’s furniture. One writer in The New York Times compared the designs to “half-completed prototypes for Norma Desmond's living room.”[iv] Another Times contributor has likened the pieces to sarcophaguses, “angular, faceted rocks”[v] as well as “great altars” and “prehistoric slabs.”[vi] Owens adds his own colorful descriptions to the reviews; he has summed up one of his beds as “part Sleeping Beauty's glass coffin and part Christ's open tomb by way of Donald Judd and Richard Serra.”[vii]
The works have been exhibited through The Jason Jacques Gallery as well as Salon 94 and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Among the institutions that have put his furniture on view are Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Triennale di Milano, and the Trapholt museum in Kolding, Denmark. Collectors who bring home the product line will find little comfort and coziness on offer, but they can decidedly rely its resistance to wear and tear. As Owens explained to the Times, “It’s solid and it’s going to last forever. I want it to last forever. I want it to outlive us all. I want it to be monumental. I think we have enough coziness in our lives. Isn’t it nice every once in a while, to have a little bit of discipline and to have something that makes you sit up kind of straight?”[viii]
[i] Rima Suqi, “From Rick Owens, Fashion to Sit On,” New York Times, December 7, 2011, D3.
[ii] Alexander Fury, “Rick Owens’s Monumental—if Not Entirely Cozy—Furniture,” New York Times, November 13, 2016, ST3.
[iii] Alexander Fury, “The Lighter Side of Rick Owens,” T Magazine, March 5, 2017, 104.
[iv] Alix Browne, “The Remix; Room and Board,” New York Times, August 28, 2005.
[v] Fury, “Rick Owens’s Monumental.”
[vi] Fury, “Lighter Side.”
[vii] Alix Browne, “Rick Owens | Making His Own Bed,” T Magazine, May 5, 2010.
[viii] Fury, “Rick Owens’s Monumental.”
Exhibited in "Le Passion Selon Carol Rama" at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, April 2015.