Inside ‘Rick Owens: Furniture’ at MOCA Pacific Design Center

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You know him as the overlord of modern gothic fashion. But the much anticipated exhibition Rick Owens: Furniture at West Hollywood’s MOCA Pacific Design Center looks at his creations not meant for the body. The work presented include recent furniture, a new group of large scale sculptures, video and installations – alongside a selection of works by the late artist and musician Steven Parrino, whom the Paris-based American designer admired.

Owens launched his eponymous clothing label in Los Angeles in 1994, and has consistently drawn influence for both his fashion collections and his sculptural furniture from a vast array of art historical sources, which span modernist design, brutalist architecture, monochrome painting, minimal art, and avant-garde dance. His radical and spectacular runway shows function as a form of performance art, and often call into question preconceived and culturally constructed notions of beauty promoted by the very fashion industry in which he works.

But since 2007 Owens has applied a punk and anarchist sensibility to furniture design as well, creating stark and elegant forms out of marble, alabaster, bronze, ox bone, leather and plywood. And in addition to displaying works in Owens’ signature materials, the exhibition showcases the artist’s first foray into foam, rock crystal and concrete.

The show is produced by Michèle Lamy, Owens’ wife, muse “fairy witch” inspiration.

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The Best Kept Secret in The West Village: Calliope

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With the likes of Marc Jacobs, Joe Malone, and Alexis Bittar lining Bleecker St., it pays to venture off the over populated retail path and make your way towards the river to West 12th St where you’ll discover the shopping oasis that is Calliope.  The store founded by Manhattan couple Caroline and Michael Ventura, is not just a store, it’s an entire thought in lifestyle.  A lifestyle that granted veers more California than New York, but with the current migration of New Yorkers going west, you can be the smart one knowing that you don’t have to move to Los Angeles to get that Cali vibe.

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What makes this place great is that it’s arranged like a shoppable living room. Inside you’ll find a curated collection of vintage, contemporary, and bespoke goods crafted by artisans from Morocco to Brooklyn, including Aaron Poritz, Fort Makers, and Michael Felix. They have everything from large designer furnishings, travel goods, luggage, antique rugs, artisan homewares, jewelry, crystals, sage and vintage records. The ever-rotating supply make the boutique a fresh source of inspiration for a creative and inspired crowd.

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It’s known amongst neighborhood locals that Calliope likes when you hang out. In fact, if you want to grab your laptop for an hour or two you can set up shop with the other locals doing just that or bring a bottle of wine and conversation while you wait for your friends finishing at The Whitney (which is just a few blocks away).

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The one thing Calliope offers over anywhere else in New York is their one-of-a-kind “field trips” with local talent which will send you on a journey in butchery lessons, astrological chart readings, vinyl hunting, drawing classes, and cocktail mixology. Sign us up.

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Calliope is located at 349 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014.

The First Time I Heard and Saw Donna Summer

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The news of Donna Summer’s death from cancer at the age of 63 shocked me out of my un-routine routine. I went to iTunes and downloaded half a dozen of her hits for use last night while DJing at Hotel Chantelle. Although it is the rockiest of rock nights, with a high probability that everybody in attendance had at one time owned a "Disco Sucks" T-shirt, it felt important to pay respect. At 3am I started mixing disco hits – and every other song was a winner from Donna. The crowd responded. It was "Love to Love You Baby," "Love Hangover", “Bad Girls,” and then Gloria Gaynor’s, "I Will Survive". Diva after diva… and the crowd went wild. The sound of well-produced dance music over a solid club sound system is one of the unique attractions of nightlife. “McArthur Park” was a near-religious experience. They ooo’d and ahhh’d and understood the loss as her voice rang clear.

I first heard “Love to Love You Baby” on my third date with a stewardess back in the mid ‘70s. We were hanging with her stewardess friends at their stewardess apartment when the record was put on. It was put on to turn me on, as I had been missing the hints that my world-weary stewardess was tossing tired of waiting for me to make my move. I caught the eye contact between her and her co-conspirators and understood my job. The 17 minutes of moans in “Love to Love You Baby” was worth a thousand words. After that affair, I retreated to my rock world, aware of Donna Summers’ hit factory but not very interested. Although “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” and her other mega-hits dominated disco – the most fun era in club history – I was a rock and roller and remain so. I was grunge before there was a name for it. I was a punk with ripped jeans and Ramones T’s. Disco was for the bad cologne, the polyester set.

Over the decades, her anthems were heard at parties and disco nights. She was unmistakable, undeniable. Her voice held even the disinterested in awe. Around 1989 I had the Red Zone, a popular club in the West 50s.

We had booked a Donna Summer event where she was to openly apologize for something she had denied even saying. She was quoted as saying "AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.” She wanted her gay family to rejoin her, rejoice in her. In 1989 we were all losing scores of friends to AIDS-related illnesses. The hideous statement from a diva whose fan base was the gay community was beyond dumb …if it were true. Few believed her denials, and the event was being held to clear the air. ACT-UP disagreed and picketed the event. Donna never left her limo and that was that. Her protestations and lawsuits did little to regain her lost fans.

Over the years, I would hear a track on the radio or at a club and was awed by her talent…her way of hanging every impossible note and underlining every lyric. It was mid-last decade and I was asked if I wanted to see her perform at some corporate affair at Exit, another club in the far west 50s. Owner David Marvisi figured I might want to see her, but no one I called cared, no one wanted to go. I went alone. I stood in the sound booth, 15 feet above and in front of the stage, and waited. I had no expectations. I had no idea what I was going to see.

She came out in complete darkness, singing the intro to “McArthur Park” and I got goose bumps. It was beyond amazing. When the beat came on so did the lights and she was a DIVA, DIVA, DIVA. The corporate suits flocked the stage to see what all their money had paid for. Donna delivered. I welled up with tears. She was an overlooked star playing to an un-hip corporate card-crowd. The crowd should have been queens, hipsters, club kids, and the wonderful instead of the mundane. She gave them her hits and smiled that show-biz smile, but all I could feel was what could have been.

Donna Summer’s death is a stop-the-presses event. I was to tell you about a bunch of things today in detail, but a few lines will now have to do. On May 18th through the 20th, Roseland Ballroom hosts the New York Tattoo Convention. Clayton Paterson, a friend and organizer, was hooking me up with a photo of man-about-town Steve Bonde for a story, but… in short, he was the Stray Cats photographer back in the day and started this tattoo convention stuff in 1998. He wrote a couple of books: Tattoo with an Attitude and Marked for Life. Everybody in the ink community is going – and so am I.

I was also to discuss the end-of-season run of Daniel and Derek Kochs’ unstoppable hit brunch “Day and Night” at Ajna Bar, 25 Little W.12th St. I would also have talked about the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits Center on May 19-22 where you can see all the furniture and fixtures of next year’s clubs in advance.

Lastly, I would have mentioned the piece in yesterday’s NY Times about Justin Ross Lee, international man of controversy. In that, the Times referred to me as "an authority on nightlife.” Now that I am official, I’m going to put down the pen, grab a diet Ginger Ale, and sit back and listen to "Last Dance."

James Shaw: Experimental Design Gunslinger

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A gun that shoots liquid metal may seem like something out of Iron Man, but it’s actually one piece of an impressive artistic arsenal recently unveiled by experimental furniture designer James Shaw at London’s Royal College of Art.

In addition to the metal-shooting gun, which emits a stream of molten malleable pewter, Shaw has created a gun that shoots papier-mâché and a third that extrudes plastic. All three "weapons of design" were presented to the public by Shaw as part of the 2013 Royal College of Art graduate exhibition in London. The project was the result of Shaw’s research into radical furniture design and inspired by an essay by Glasgow-based artist and author Jonathan Meuli.

Using these innovative design tools, Shaw has produced a variety of strange and utilitarian objects, such as a papier-mâché lamp and a "pewter squirt" table. The objects look functional, but also otherworldly. And it takes a totally different approach to design. "In work like his," notes Monica Khemsurov of Sight Unseen, "it’s about the journey, not just the destination."

“It discusses the pervading perception of artists, craftspeople and designers as these lone heroic figures,” Shaw told Luxury in Progress. “They struggle away for some spark of originality, for creative territory or simply for survival. It inspired me to create an arsenal of ‘weapons’ with which to equip myself for leaving the Royal College.”

"I have produced a set of weapons (guns of course) to become my arsenal, with these I will fight the fight," said Shaw, a graduate of RCA’s Design Products program in his artist statement.

"We are all fighting for creative territory, for novelty, for some spark of newness. We are fighting banality and the oppression of massive systems within which we are complicit and sometimes complacent. Each gun is an innovation in itself, and each gun shall be capable of producing further innovation. These guns are tools for making, for making images of possible new worlds."

"Often (power) ‘tools’’ seem to fall into the form of guns, think nail gun, spray gun, glue gun, tape gun, tufting gun even the handheld drill has a definite gun-like nature," he says. "This bears an interesting relation to the way in which making is about the human dominance over natural resources and obtaining mastery over materials, but also the notion of a gun fits into this received idea of the heroic nature of the artist in a cowboy gunslinger way."

As any tool-wielders worth their weight in smooth shank stainless steel nails knows, it’s not the tool, it’s how you use it. But it’s also true that a creative vision can best be expressed with the right tools to begin with. As Shaw has proven with his innovative new design "guns," sometimes, to build a different kind of house, you need a different kind of hammer.

Miami Opening: Poltrona Frau

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Just in time to celebrate a century of forwarding such a glorious vision of the bright and shiny future, Italian furniture purveyor Poltrona Frau has thrown open the doors on this grandiose North American showroom.

Appropriately located in Miami’s Design District, the 27,000 square foot flagship is housed in a wildly deconstructionist red, grey and purple structure that appears as if it may fall to pieces at any moment. Inside are two stories comprising the holy trinity of Italian design brands, PF, Cappellini and Cassina, along with other carefully chosen pieces; it’s veritably a design museum with price tags. A bookshop offers a carefully chosen selection of art, architect and fashion tomes, so you have something to ponder whilst parked on your magnificent new furnishings.

Acne & DVF Give You a Place to Rest Your 6″ Heels

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Don’t put either Diane Von Furstenberg or Acne–the Swedish fashion brand and design collective–in a box. In fact, both are expanding this season in a rather unlikely way: furniture. Neither method of branching out is necessarily a surprise. Acne, for starters, is no one-trick pony: its collective is responsible for a coveted bi-annual magazine, and equally drool-inducing fashions and advertising. Besides, its head, Jonny Johansson, actually got his start designing furniture. Johansson has remained relatively mum about details, although he has cited mid-century, Swedish master Carl Malmsten as his inspiration. “The hand-crafted nature of his pieces sums up the handy crafting movement and it’s simplicity and quality is super interesting to me,” he told Grazia.

The move from DVF isn’t much of a shock either: she’s already done everything from swimwear to luggage. And, like Johansson, it’s not DVF’s first time doing furniture: the line marks DVF’s “first entry into a full-line, freestanding home collection, although she did a program in the 1970s with Sears,” says HFN. All the latter seems to know at this point is that “it will debut with a Collection line targeted at the department and better specialty store channel.” The year does mark an official first for DVF, however. Not only does the yoga-adoring designer have a furniture line up her sleeves. She debuted her first-ever sunglasses line this month as well.