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Pucci turns furniture event into surreal experience

New York Daily News - May 2012

New York Daily News

When Ralph Pucci goes for a “wow,” he lets himself, his artists, his old friends and his furniture designers totally loose. Events can take four months of preparation, and when an idea hits him, he goes with it at a moment’s notice.

On Monday, May 21, in tandem with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and New York’s Design Week, Pucci will unveil two new designers, the second version of his self-named furniture collection, a room full of life-size art by Brooklyn artist Jeff Quinn, and signed pieces of furniture decorated by Ruben Toledo. The event is expected to draw up to 1,000 people. Anyone who loves design and art is welcome.

“When I make a decision, I feel pretty comfortable about going with it,” says Pucci, standing in the room surrounded by Quinn’s murals. “For this show, I wanted something surreal, really out there, but still in line with our vision of what’s contemporary, modern and somewhat minimalist. Our shows are not just about a chair or a sofa, it’s the entire experience, the meshing of furniture, art and music. I’m thinking some Miles Davis electronica or some funky James Brown instrumentals will go with this. This could be epic.”

“This” is the world only Pucci can create. Pucci gave Quinn an entire room on the ninth floor of his two-floor gallery. Quinn, who paints worlds that seem a cross between a Japanese landscape and some undiscovered planet, has never worked on such a large scale. The room is at least 2,200 square feet. His work, all interconnected, makes the mind travel. This size, covering almost every wall in a room with some placed on the floor, puts the viewer inside the world. Beige, blue and deep red with some white, filled with odd shapes, peaks and valleys, it’s a pretty landscape to spend a few hours. Quinn titled the show “Wanderlost.”

“I kind of see these as places inhabited by a lone traveler,” says Quinn, who lives in Cobble Hill. “I’m a deadly perfectionist, so I’m not going to be happy till everything is in place. I enjoy the process of painting and conceiving this. My sister sent me this Japanese word. I have to remember it, but it means teetering in this place where things are out of balance and in balance at once. I kind of like that.”
To complement Quinn’s world, Pucci will introduce the work of lighting designer Ted Abramczyk and furniture maker/sculptor Fran Taubman.

In the 12th-floor gallery, Pucci has a surprise. While at an event to celebrate the release of a book by fashion designer Isabel Toledo (Michelle Obama wore her dress to the Inauguration), Pucci ran into his old friend Ruben, Toledo’s husband.

A consummate artist who lives to draw, Ruben had decorated the elevator and other parts of the SoHo space for his wife’s book signing. Pucci was blown away. Without thinking, he asked Toledo if he would draw on distinct pieces of his own furniture collection to coincide with the release of Ralph Pucci Furniture (two). Toledo said yes. The results, titled “Collaboration,” are strong statements about how art is everywhere, and how we need to live in worlds full of fun.

“I wanted to make a tattoo for furniture,” says Toledo, who credits his wife, and their love, as his creative fuel. “I wanted these pieces to radiate a sense of magic and surprise, toys for your eyes and soul. Art is singular. It does not have to perform any practical service. This furniture has to not only look great, it has to perform and earn their way into your heart. They have to be worthy of becoming a loved family heirloom.”

Almost alive, they already are.

By Jason Sheftell