By  on March 9, 2005

NEW YORK — Artist Malcolm Hill finds his canvas in “forgotten” pockets of retail space.

“Certain areas of stores, especially in larger stores, need an injection of energy,’’ Hill said in an interview. “Generally, I like to put a mural in a place that looks a little forgotten, because there can be such intense merchandise activity in other parts of the store.”

He added, “But there is also a lot of opportunity to merge a mural with the merchandise. That must be done very carefully depending on the vendor. It can be touchy. It can be political. It’s less controversial when you find a space that’s untended.”

A native of Waco, Tex., Hill, 52, has developed an unusual reputation. He’s a retail muralist, primarily for high-end stores, though he works in a variety of media, creating window displays and backdrops, artwork on casework, illustrations for magazines and catalogues, and sculpture.

He started his career as a window designer at Neiman Marcus in the early Eighties and subsequently began a freelance business painting window backgrounds at such fashion stores in Texas as Stanley Korshak, and the former Lou Lattimore.

Eventually, Barneys New York commissioned him to do murals and window displays. Hill has also done sculptural pieces for Bergdorf Goodman, and has added creative touches to By George and Jonathan Adler, among other stores.

Hill’s latest mural sets the tone for the Jens Risom furniture show at the Ralph Pucci International showroom, on 18th Street here. Pucci commissioned the 88-year-old Risom to create a collection of tables, sofas, benches and chairs, and then contacted Hill.

“Ralph wanted me on that project because he felt my work would go very well with Jens Risom’s aesthetic,” Hill said. Risom, legendary for being among the first to bring Scandinavian craftsmanship to the U.S., has redesigned his midcentury classics for the Pucci showroom. Pucci is also displaying prints by Julian Schnabel.

Hill’s 14-foot-by-16-foot mural depicts Risom’s initials, though they’re sublimated in the design and not obvious at first glance. It reflects Hill’s philosophy about integrating with, and not upstaging, the surroundings. It’s about creating artwork that jibes with the display.

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