Into the Woods
Ralph Pucci International branches out with sculpture by Jérôme Abel Seguin
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 4/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Ralph Pucci is a rare breed. A design professional who possesses both artistic intuition and business savvy, he's brought many a fledgling, under-the-radar talent—from Chris Lehrecke to Spencer Fung—to the big league by exhibiting their work at Ralph Pucci International in New York. French-born Jérôme Abel Seguin, who showed with Pucci recently, came to his attention a few years ago. Seguin spends half his time in Paris and the other half in Sumbawa, Indonesia, where he makes wall hangings, bas-reliefs, benches, tables, and sculpture from indigenous woods such as teak and coconut—pieces that marry the raw beauty of a found object with a high degree of finish. "Jérôme's work is frank and simple. It's monumental, minimal, and very luxurious," Pucci says. "He always goes more abstract, yet more natural, by making the simplest forms out of giant pieces of wood."
The forms may be simple, but their installation was not. Because of the weight and size of some pieces—up to 600 pounds and 20 feet long—it took a 15-person crew 10 days to position everything at Pucci's penthouse showroom in Chelsea. Luckily, he could see the forest through the trees and had the foresight to map out the exact placement of every object ahead of time. Standing Hollow Tree Trunk shot up into the gallery's vaulted skylight, while Kupa-Kupa Buka stood like an open book to be quietly contemplated in a far corner.
While the Seguin installation represented somewhat of a departure from the more functional pieces that Pucci usually shows these days, the contrast is striking indeed when viewed in the context of his family's original business, mannequin repair. In 1976, when Pucci took over, he had the inspired idea to start manufacturing his own product, tapping artists such as Ruben Toledo and Kenny Scharf to create avant-garde designs. In the mid-'80s, a collaboration with Andrée Putman on mannequins for Barneys New York led to his representing a limited selection of Putman's furniture. Things took off from there, culminating in the acquisition of a sprawling, two-gallery showroom and his subsequent evolution into a full-fledged furniture dealer. "When I moved, the new space lent itself to more than just mannequins," says Pucci. "I saw the potential to use it for events or to show anything of interest to me."
It just so happens that an awful lot interests Pucci, from fashion to furniture to fine art. He generally showcases a rotating mix of the above, mingling lighting with sofas, rugs with paintings. Though Seguin's exhibition marked the first time that the design impresario cleared an entire gallery of furniture for a single artist, the work's spareness does exemplify the aesthetic that Pucci has so successfully made his own. "Our artists are always paring down, always taking away," he says. "Yet they all have so many different elements that make them fascinating." Sounds a bit like Pucci himself.