Tag Archives: Furniture

Meeting Peter Shire

Belle Air, Chair, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Belle Air, Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood,  Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair Installation, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair Installation, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Belle Aire, Chair, 2010, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Belle Aire, Chair, 2010, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Bel Air, Memphis, 1981, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Bel Air, Memphis, 1981, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Olympic Lamp Installation, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Recio Young
Olympic Lamp Installation  &  Romi Cortier,  MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Recio Young

I never imagined that I’d have the distinct pleasure of meeting Peter Shire, the only American artist to serve as part of the Italian based Memphis Group…. but I did!!  It happened on the last day of his recent exhibit at MOCA, West Hollywood, down to about the last hour of his show that closed on July 2, 2017.

I kept nudging my fiance that morning… lets go, it’s closes at 6. Himyou still have a few hours, why rush. Ugh. You know that feeling when you’re so excited like a kid who wants to go to the carnival?  Well that’s me when it came to seeing this exciting show, because it held so much history for me.  I’d been aware of the Memphis Group, since they burst on the scene in the early 1980’s. As a young guy who’d just moved to Seattle from the boonies, I was awestruck by the bold and colorful furniture that I’d seen in a few of the Italian based furniture stores. And then, there was that crazy fun movie ‘Ruthless People’ starring Better Midler and Danny DeVito in 1986 which solidified the outrageous design movement known as Post Modernism.  To be honest, I think they were poking fun at the Memphis furniture style  by stuffing the characters Bel-Air home on Belagio Drive with loads and loads of it. But it made an impact that stuck.

To be clear about this design movement, a lot of people hated it. But I’ve always believed in it. My professors at the UCLA interior design school taught us that it takes at least 20 years for the scholars to look back on a design movement and put it in perspective. Well… it’s been 30 years, and guys like Peter Shire and Ettore Sottsass, who founded the group, are getting museum shows all across the country. That’s a good sign.  And auction sales for their work are also very strong, another good sign. I own a few pieces of furniture from this era, and I’ve used them daily with great pride. In the photo below you can see the First Chair by Michele de Lucchi (blue disc on the right), that I’ve owned forever. I use it as my painting chair in my art studio because it’s durable and resistant to paint.

Romi Cortier painting in his Art Studio, Laurel Canyon, Photo Sylvan Scott
Romi Cortier painting in his Art Studio, Laurel Canyon, Photo Sylvan Scott

So, back to the exhibit. When we walked into MOCA, the receptionist mentioned that Peter might still be upstairs.  Whaaaat? Oh my god, really? I was so nervous as I climbed the stairs to the upper gallery.   He was there. In the corner. Chatting away. Well…. I circled the gallery, enjoyed and photographed my favorite pieces… but I just couldn’t bring myself to say hello. I was chickening out, but my fiance pushed me: say hello, say hello. You would have thought I was trying to work up the nerve to say hello to Brad Pit or some Hollywood A Lister. The thing is, in my eyes, men like Peter Shire are way more important then Hollywood celebs. They’re artists. They create something from nothing and change the way we view and experience the world. I was just as giddy  meeting the iconic photographer Julius Shulman and artist Francoise Gilot.

Mr. Shire was very kind and easy to talk to. He also thanked me for taking the work so seriously and for coming to his show. Please… I would have gotten down on my hands and knees and polished his shoes in that moment. I went downstairs, purchased a book from the show, and went back up for an autograph. He asked his famous architect friend to hold the book while I looked on: Too many famous people!!! In one room. To two very nice people!!!

www.petershirestudio.com 

Romi Cortier, Peter Shire, Friend and Architect, MOCA, West Hollywood, Photo Recio Young
Romi Cortier, Peter Shire, Friend and Architect, MOCA, West Hollywood, Photo Recio Young

Furniture from the Mondrian / De Stijl exhibit at the Pompidou Center

Gerrit Reitveld Table, Pompidou Center 2011, Photo Romi Cortier
Gerrit Reitveld Table, Pompidou Center 2011, Photo Romi Cortier
Gerrit Reitveld Chair, Pompidou Center, 2011, Photo Romi Cortier
Gerrit Reitveld Chair, Pompidou Center, 2011, Photo Romi Cortier
Theo Vn Doesburg, Cornelis Van Eesteren
Theo Vn Doesburg, Cornelis Van Eesteren, Building Model, Photo Romi Cortier

In early 2011, I made a mad dash to Paris for a four day weekend to see the Mondrian / De Stijl exhibit at the Pompidou Center. Decadent yes, but it was a must see event for an art history geek like myself.  De  Stijl, Dutch for ‘The Style‘ was a movement from 1917 – 1928 that sought to wipe out all historical references in art, architecture and furniture, creating a new design vocabulary for the 20th Century.

Painter Piet Mondrian and furniture designer/architect  Gerrit Rietveld are the two most famous people from this period. Their works were the subject of this monumental exhibit at the Pompidou Center, an exhibit that had a strict policy against photography with guards in every room chasing down anyone with a camera. How did I get these shots you ask… not easy. (lets hope they don’t find my blog) It was so exciting to get to see these works in person, although I almost didn’t make it to the exhibit entrance. Do you see the little glass tube at the top of the Pompidou Center, 6 stories up, not a good thing for a guy with a fear of heights. When the elevator doors opened, I almost fainted. Complete strangers in the elevator grabbed my arms, told me to close my eyes, and then walked me to the entrance of the exhibit. So worth the trauma!

It was exciting to see the evolution of Mondrian’s paintings from the cubist inspired ‘The Still Life with Ginger Pot II‘ to his starker images that we’re all so familiar with, such as ‘Composition with red blue and yellow’ 1930.  Many people associate this ‘look’ with the 1960’s or 1970’s thanks to the Partridge Family Bus from the television series ‘The Partridge Family. However, it all started about 50 years earlier.

 

Chairs from the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles

French NeoClassical Chair in Blue
Louis XVI / French NeoClassical Chair in Blue Silk in the Room of Mirrors. Photo Romi Cortier
French Neoclassical Chair in Mauve
Louis XVI / French Neoclassical Chair in Mauve. Photo Romi Cortier
Gilded French Neoclassical in Yellow
Gilded French Empire Fauteuil (open arms) in the family room of Louis-Philippe. Photo Romi Cortier
Gilded French Neoclassical Chair in Crimson Red
Gilded French Neoclassical Chair in Fuschia in the room of Malachite. Photo Romi Cortier

These chairs from the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles speak volumes about their inhabitants during this critical time in Frances history. The reign of Louis XVI (the 16th, last of the three Louis’s including the 14th and 15th)  ended abruptly in 1789 with the French Revolution.  Louis XV (the 15th)  had a design dictum of Rococo, curvaceous with natural wood grains. The furniture above was a reaction to that period. Therefore, the look of the furniture became a reference to the Romans and the Greeks, which was inspired by the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Sleek straight lines with right angles, fluted columns, oak and laurel leaves, wreaths,  pastel tones… logical simplicity. Madame du Pompadour had an interest in all that was new and fashionable and helped influence this look that is now typically referred to as ‘French Neoclassicism’. The period was short lived, from roughly 1760 – 1789.  After the French Revolution in 1789, the outraged citizens held an auction to sell off much of the furniture of the Royal Court… an auction that lasted 365 days!