While there never seems to be enough hours in a day, Rick Owens has figured out a way to make more time. “I have two mornings,” he said. “I get up early and have my meetings, and then I’m sort of emptied out, so I go take a nap. Then I wake up and start my work day again at 6 p.m.”
The prolific designer and artist is speaking from the rural town outside of Bologna, Italy, where his clothes are produced. “I’m working on men’s runway and starting women’s spring,” he said. Many designers gripe about the increasing number of shows and collections, but Owens said, “I love the stimulation. It keeps you on your toes, like boxing. You have to keep your eyes open all around you.”
Indeed, he also has a show opening at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, on Dec. 17 titled “Rick Owens: Furniture,” which will be on view through April 2 at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center space in West Hollywood, Calif.
But, he explained, the real creative force behind the show is his wife Michèle Lamy, who is currently here installing it. (A Twitter post on Thursday showed Kanye West sitting on a still-crated, carved ox bone Owens chair at the museum.)
“It’s an intimate exercise, a conversation between me and Michele,” Owens said of their design process. They began making furniture in 2007 and the exhibit contains about 20 percent classic pieces and 80 percent new works, many of which they conceived for his newest store in New York’s SoHo.
“It was never a commercial idea. We just did it because we could. It’s the way we play.” Owens said he comes up with drawings, then passes the ball to Lamy, who has models made, which they both then carve and re-proportion before Lamy enlists artisans to create the mostly large-scale pieces from marble, alabaster, bronze, leather and plywood. This show marks their first foray into materials such as foam, rock crystal and concrete. “One day for Christmas I am going to get Michele her own crane. She loves heavy machinery,” he noted.
It’s Lamy’s execution, he said, that makes the pieces special. “I don’t overestimate my creativity at all. Ninety-five percent is the execution. In this case it is very much about her energy. She’s a magical fairy witch who needs to go out there and connect with people, fight with them, throw her jewelry at them,” he said.
If it seems like a monumental way to spend ones’ leisure time, it’s because more pedestrian acts of goofing around don’t come naturally to Owens. “I take life a little too seriously, perhaps. I’m good at dedication and discipline, but I feel we have a moral responsibility to take the time we’ve got and play. This is what works for me.”
Owens said he’ll leave it to Lamy to install the show and glory in its opening. His pieces will be shown alongside a selection of works by the late artist and musician Steven Parrino, whose canvases contain themes of detaching, twisting and distorting the material similar to those in Owens’ clothes.
“I want her to enjoy all of this on her terms,” he said. “I’ve got a s–tload of things to do over here, and socializing would be this distraction. I have to be forced to come to New York and L.A. because there is a social kind of hysteria there that is not my comfort zone. But I’m not shy.”
Plus, he said, “I like her summaries better than experiencing it myself.”
Instead, he’ll get to work on his next museum exhibit: a show at the 2018 Milan Triennale that will be a comprehensive look at his fashion oeuvre and his furniture. According to him, “It’s one of those clothes-on-a-mannequin, world-of-the-designer shows.” Given that Owens is prone to complex analyses of his own work, count on it to be interesting.
“It’s a big, beautiful space. I’m going there next week to look at it,” he said. “I love being able to manipulate space and create a utopian vision. I’m completely aware of the poignancy of reaching for something that is unattainable. That is the beauty of utopias. It’s only a matter of time before they’re corrupted.” He paused, before adding, “I’m fully aware it’s based on ego and vanity, but while you are on earth, it’s something good do with your time. Busy hands are happy hands.”