For the past decade, Jim Zivic’s medium has been coal, which he sculptures, hones and polishes into massive tables for clients like Lou Reed and Salma Hayek. “It’s a little romance with the muck,' the designer says of the anthracite chunks, which he buys 14 tons at a time from a mine in Pennsylvania and stores in the backyard of his upstate New York house. The coal’s earthiness appeals to Zivic, but the irony of his situation doesn’t escape him. “The same stuff my neighbors are burning for heat, Ralph is selling for thousands of dollars,' he says, referring to Ralph Pucci, the owner of Ralph Pucci International, the company that is known for its fashion mannequins and its furniture by cutting-edge designers.
An exhibition that opens today in Gallery Nine of Pucci’s New York showroom will show Zivic’s designs in coal and other commodities, including benches made of cotton bales, aluminum dining tables and upholstered chaises made of hexagonal steel bars. “They look like campaign furniture,' he says of the chaises, “but the cushions are really luxurious, with a rolled edge. They’re pretty sexy.' The exhibition will also include leather-clad shelves and a hammock with a felt headboard and suede pad. (Also on display in Gallery Nine will be furniture and sculpture by Pilar Proffitt and Robert Bristow, quilts by Denyse Schmidt, photographs by Lisa Spindler and concrete works by Stevi Michner. On view in Pucci’s penthouse space will be furniture by Jens Risom and paintings by Paul Mathieu, and its Los Angeles showroom will exhibit fiberglass furniture and sculpture by Vladimir Kagan.)
But the inevitable draw will be Zivic’s new coal tables, which detail his latest experiments with the material’s physical properties. He coated some of the tables in silicone, playing up the anthracite’s natural luster, but left others in their rough state, looking as if they’ve just exited the earth. Zivic poured molten metal into the cracks of some tables, mimicking the butterfly joints and barbell-shaped repairs that are common in woodworking, and dumped plain epoxy into the deep cuts of a few, to keep the fragile matter from falling apart. “They’re all in different stages of finish,' he said of the works, “because I want to show people there is beauty in roughness, too.'
Gallery Nine at the Ralph Pucci showroom; 44 West 18th Street. The exhibition runs until spring 2010.
By JULIE TARASKA