At the Austere showroom in downtown Los Angeles, an exhibition of handmade rugs from the Swedish textile company Henzel Studio brings an elevated artistic eye to an item that’s usually underfoot. On view until 14 September, silk-and-wool pieces conceived by such art world luminaries as Juergen Teller and Nan Goldin are shown in the United States for the first time, alongside collaborative rugs and pillows from such creative forces as Assume Vivid Astro Focus and Bernhard Willhelm.
All part of an open-ended series that started with a piece by a master of traversing mediums, Richard Prince – and which also includes a capsule collection with the Tom of Finland Foundation– the tactile explorations highlight the directional possibilities in ancient fibre techniques. Working closely with a network of skilled artisans in Nepal, the rugs can take months to complete from the initial yarn spinning. Some recall 17th century tapestries in their detail. Others expand the notion of collage with variations in texture and lustre through surprising uses of pile heights and appliqué; these include a freeform black rug by Helmut Lang based on a small sculpture, and a Marilyn Minter rug from an image of shattered glass, both of which reveal themselves according to vantage point and lighting. At Austere, which brings an inquisitive, unorthodox approach to Scandinavia’s design heritage, the rugs are hung and laid throughout the two-floor space in a density recalling a bazaar, while also offering radical propositions in decorative textiles.
Working in an unexpected medium allows for new creative directions, explains Joakim Andreasson, curator of Henzel Studio’s collaborations. ‘I think the current systems that are at place within the higher echelon of art and design are not necessarily conducive to openness and creative exploration,’ he says, noting that Henzel founder Calle Henzel has long pushed the boundaries of material mastery in his own work.
‘This project is more subjective than what can be summed up in a manifesto,’ Andreasson concludes. ‘If anything, the mission was to create a sense of freedom, where the artists were free to disregard design movements and related principles and rules, and where practicality was secondary to concept.’
Born in Poland in 1942, Peter Berlin is a relative of the celebrated fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968). Raised in Germany, Berlin received post-secondary education as a photo-technician, and in his early 20s worked as a celebrity portraitist for German television. However, it was around this time that he curiously began designing and sewing his own skin-tight clothing which he would wear as he cruised the parks and train stations in Berlin, Rome, Paris, New York and San Francisco. After several long-term stays on the east coast of the United States, Peter Berlin eventually moved to San Francisco in 1969, and became a fixture on the steep streets with his signature look and perpetual posing. He soon began producing films and starred in the now iconic Nights in Black Leather (1973), co-directed by Richard Abel. Berlin then produced, directed, and starred in That Boy the following year, and made four shorter films through the mid to late 1970s, while publishing and selling his photographic self-portraits. Peter Berlin was the subject of several Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, three drawings by Tom of Finland, and at least one portrait by Andy Warhol, attesting to his worldwide celebrity.
In 2005 Jim Tushinski directed and co-produced That Man: Peter Berlin, which helped spawn a resurgence of interest in and appreciation for Berlin’s work. Berlin resides in San Francisco quietly today, where he is still frequently recognized on the sidewalks by his fans.
The exhibition is co-curated by Eric Smith and Mark Garrett.
On view through 10th October.