The birth of brutalism – Rick Owen’s weird furniture
Rick Owens - Black Marble 2 Prong Bench, 2012, black marble, Edition of 8, 80x300 or 380x90cm

Installation view of Rick Owens- Furniture, December 17, 2016–April 2, 2017 at MOCA Pacific Design Center, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo by Brian Forrest
Installation view of Rick Owens: Furniture at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2016-2017
Photo: Brian Forrest

When asked to speak about his art, Rick Owens appreciates designers who make hand beads or ball gowns but he loves his style more. By making use of rare materials and working with highly skilled artisans, he is able to create unique items. With an emphasis on art as opposed to lifestyle, Owens creates massive monuments with little assembly work compared to the carving involved.

Owens is fascinated by the contrast created when different material comes together to create expensive looking furniture pieces. He began this line of his work in 2007 and since then, some pieces have travelled the international art circuit and as new shows come up, more designs are born. Every year there is a bit of stray from the original art vision. In the first year when he began, Owen imagined a rock which was covered in fur and placed next to a fireplace; it is from this vision that the boulder signature was created.

To date, this original block has undergone various versions of transformation to create a bench, chair and daybed. The latest version of the block, as can be seen at MOCA, gets its shape from German bankers that were made from concrete and used during the Second World War. In his own words, Owens describes these banker looking furniture pieces as images of futuristic temples. Since they have no ornamentation, and are too square, with rounded corners that look weird, he thinks of them as the birth of brutalism.

It is obvious that much of what Owen does and his level of recognition in art circles is due to his creativity but much of what he has achieved would not be possible without his wife Michèle Lamy who is also his creative partner. The teamwork begins at prototyping after Owen had already drawn the designs on paper. At this stage, their main tools are a passion for art, a kitchen knife and two pairs of loving hands. They then use the services of a dealer who travels the world sourcing for elements and unique materials.

Armed with a prototype and unique elements, the team gets into action to supervise the production team. Did you know that colossal slabs made out of stone weigh up to 2 tons? These are the bases on which carvings are made by cutting through them using laser before they get to be polished.

For people who only know Rick Owen as a fashion designer, it comes as a pleasant surprise that he makes furniture with such magnificence.

Installation view of Rick Owens- Furniture, December 17, 2016–April 2, 2017 at MOCA Pacific Design Center, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Installation view of Rick Owens: Furniture at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2016-2017

Installation view of Rick Owens- Furniture, December 17, 2016–April 2, 2017 at MOCA Pacific Design Center, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Installation view of Rick Owens: Furniture at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2016-2017

Installation view of Rick Owens- Furniture, December 17, 2016–April 2, 2017 at MOCA Pacific Design Center, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Installation view of Rick Owens: Furniture at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2016-2017

Rick Owens - Black Marble 2 Prong Bench, 2012, black marble, Edition of 8, 80x300 or 380x90cm
Rick OwensBlack Marble 2 Prong Bench, 2012, black marble, Edition of 8, 80×300 or 380x90cm

Rick Owens - Black Plywood 3 Prong Bench, 2013, Black Plywood, Edition of 8, 85.5x670x116cm
Rick OwensBlack Plywood 3 Prong Bench, 2013, Black Plywood, Edition of 8, 85.5x670x116cm

Rick Owens - Screen, 2011, Black Plywood, Edition of 12, 270x170.5x75cm
Rick OwensScreen, 2011, Black Plywood, Edition of 12, 270×170.5x75cm

Rick Owens, Daybed, 2012, Black Plywood, Edition of 12, 86x325x90cm
Rick OwensDaybed, 2012, Black Plywood, Edition of 12, 86x325x90cm

Rick Owens - Daybed, 2012, Black Plywood, Edition of 12, 86x325x90cm
Rick OwensDaybed, 2012, Black Plywood, Edition of 12, 86x325x90cm

Rick Owens - Plug Table, 2012, Petrified wood base, black plywood, plan top, 110x100x360cm
Rick OwensPlug Table, 2012, Petrified wood base, black plywood, plan top, 110x100x360ccm

Rick Owens - Plug Table, 2011, Alabaster base, black plywood, plan top, 110x100x360cm
Rick OwensPlug Table, 2011, Alabaster base, black plywood, plan top, 110x100x360cm

Rick Owens - Plug Table, 2013, white marble, Edition of 8, 77x270x90cm
Rick OwensPlug Table, 2013, white marble, Edition of 8, 77x270x90cm

Rick Owens - Small Plug Table, 2013, Black Plywood, Edition of 50, 41x140x75cm
Rick OwensSmall Plug Table, 2013, Black Plywood, Edition of 50, 41x140x75cm

Rick Owens - Showroom Table, 2007, Brass and plywood, 75x183x83cm
Rick OwensShowroom Table, 2007, Brass and plywood, 75x183x83cm

Rick Owens - Curial, 2006, natural plywood, Edition of 25, 66x83x60cm
Rick OwensCurial, 2006, natural plywood, Edition of 25, 66x83x60cm

Rick Owens - Design Days Dubai | Swan, 2011, Black Plywood, Edition of 50, 67x60x65cm
Rick OwensDesign Days Dubai | Swan, 2011, Black Plywood, Edition of 50, 67x60x65cm

Rick Owens - Curial, 2009, White Marble, Edition of 8, 66x83x60cm
Rick OwensCurial, 2009, White Marble, Edition of 8, 66x83x60cm

Rick Owens - Half Box (Ox Bone), 2011, Black Plywood, Edition of 50, 77x50x50cm
Rick OwensHalf Box (Ox Bone), 2011, Black Plywood, Edition of 50, 77x50x50cm

Rick Owens - Half Box Chair, 2011, Alabaster, 50x50x77cm
Rick OwensHalf Box Chair, 2011, Alabaster, 50x50x77cm

Rick Owens - Half Box Chair, 2011, black plywood, 77x50x50cm
Rick OwensHalf Box Chair, 2011, black plywood, 77x50x50cm

Rick Owens - Stag Bench (pair), 2006, Black Plywood, stained wood, fallow deer antlers, Edition of 20, 135.9x112.4x72.4 cm, 126x109.2x71.8 cm
Rick OwensStag Bench (pair), 2006, Black Plywood, stained wood, fallow deer antlers, Edition of 20, left: 135.9×112.4×72.4cm, right: 126×109.2×71.8 cm

Rick Owens - Stag Bench (Right), 2006, Black Plywood, Moose Antler, Edition of 20, 98x128x58cm
Rick OwensStag Bench (Right), 2006, Black Plywood, Moose Antler, Edition of 20, 98x128x58cm

Rick Owens - Stag Stool (Right), 2012, White Marble, Moose Antler, Edition of 8, 86x63x56cm
Rick OwensStag Stool (Right), 2012, White Marble, Moose Antler, Edition of 8, 86x63x56cm

Rick Owens - Alchemy Chair, 2012, bronze, leather, 71x62x50cm
Rick OwensAlchemy Chair, 2012, bronze, leather, 71x62x50cm

 

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