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.’