rebecca purcell

World Maker

Dawn of Past-Present

aesthetic explorationrebecca purcell6 Comments
ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo: Gentl and Hyers

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo: Gentl and Hyers

ABC Home

It is hard to describe how the interior of ABC Home looked during the nineties

It was an immense phantasmagoria of objects, textiles and furniture, every area artfully arranged, with virtually no corner left empty

Paulette Cole, the creative director, aptly called shopping there a  “multilayered museum experience”

A seven-floor collage of weathered patina, bedding, antique textiles, house wares, thousands of vintage, and carefully curated, objects

Distressed as well as traditional furniture, and a vast collection of extraordinary carpets

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo:John Wadsworth

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo:John Wadsworth

rebecca-purcell-ABCfirstfloor2.jpg

A focus on distressed patina, the incorporation of weathered, vintage objects in eclectic and innovative ways

This had been seen as far back as the fifities

In the work of installation and assemblage artists such as Edward and Nancy Kienholz, and Robert Rauschenberg

But Paulette championed weathered and distressed patina at a time when this was truly radical for a retail setting

In the very early days there was nothing quite like it

This was before the ‘Bobo’s in Paradise’ aged patina trend had taken hold

Paulette is the only person, to my knowledge, who was brave enough to promote, direct, and allow this kind of energy and creativity on this ambitious a scale

As display director, I was finally given the space and free reign to create an immense, ongoing and ever changing installation, expressing an ethos that I was later to realize had a significant cultural impact

Expressing an ideology that is, I believe, even more relevant today

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo: Gentl and Hyers

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo: Gentl and Hyers

I say Paulette was brave because ABC was both loved and unloved

It was immensely popular – and for good reason

But there were many who had issue with the abundant, cornucopia aesthetic

During my tenure there, I saw firsthand, how polarizing the store’s visual aspects could be

There were strong detractors, both within and outside the store

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo: Gentl and Hyers

ABC add, Stylist Rebecca Purcell, Art direction Pualette Cole and Amy Ilias, Photo: Gentl and Hyers

As for the customers, some would walk in the door, their faces lighting up as if they were seeing one of the wonders of the world

Others looked nervous and desperate for escape

Certainly not always but often enough to be very noticeable

I found this fascinating

A visual language was being spoken here that was instantly absorbed by some and immediately off-putting to others

Home of Judyth Van Amringe / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Home of Judyth Van Amringe / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Liza Bruce Interior, Photo: Simon Upton / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Liza Bruce Interior, Photo: Simon Upton / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Sorting Through the Thoughts

Playing a role in this emerging genre urged me to sort out my own intense, complex connection to this eclectic, weathered aesthetic

I knew my attraction could not be summed up as simply ‘nostalgic’

Too begin with there is no specific genre to pine for

It had something to do with the nature of this kind of attraction

An attraction I felt had not been described in a meaningful way

And it didn’t seem to have a proper name

I began calling it ‘Past-Present’

And I started recording thoughts and experiences related to this aesthetic

Mari Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Mari Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

I believe the Past-Present aesthetic fully emerged in its retail and interior decor incarnation in the early nineties

During this decade there was a perceptible shift

An eclectic, often purposefully haphazard, mix of genres and styles that relied on patina, layering, and whimsy as its prime attractors

An aesthetic that focused on the fascination of complex texture, charm, sincerity, preciousness, embellishment, eccentricity, and at times mysticism to fuel connection

If Past-Present had a mascot it would be typewriter font

With ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ as its favorite relative

Cobbe's cabinet, World of Interiors / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Cobbe's cabinet, World of Interiors / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Manifestation of Past-Present

The Past-Present aesthetic can be seen in a white-washed room peppered with an assortment of objects both new and old (with a set of horns often in the mix...)

Or exuberantly manifested in a Bohemian collage of textures

The unifying force as I see it

Is an attitude that is reflective of a new way of being

A cultural shift away from the pervasive, and too often destructive desire to impress, fueled by envy, wealth, status, power, and overt sexuality

In contrast Past-Present involves the desire to express, fueled by imagination, inspiration, creativity, connection and sensuality

(That said, Past-Present objects can be expensive… but they don’t have to be, wealth and exclusivity isn’t the overall ethos)

Marie Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Marie Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

 

 

The more humble side of interior design, Cottage décor, has been around for centuries

But it was either a product of necessity, or very nostalgic in tone – the emulation of a simple life in the country

Web Image

Web Image

Mar a Lago / Web Image

Mar a Lago / Web Image

For the most part home décor has been a continual attempt to aspire towards the modes and styles of monarchy, or whoever was on the pedestal

The grand families, and the wealthy worlds of the elite

Most recently it seems that mid-luxury and boutique hotels are the hallmark of style to be emulated

Corbusier Interior / Web Image

Corbusier Interior / Web Image

And peppered across this landscape

Is a liberal dose of barren Bauhaus legacies

White-boxed dreams of the future gleaming

With their mute display of wealth hidden behind expensive finishings, surface materials and architect price tags

Boasting ‘intelligent’ design, and ‘harmony without fuss or superfluous ornament’

 

Dion - Sherwood Interior / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Dion - Sherwood Interior / Rebecca Purcell Archive

In contrast Past-Present is highly diverse

A cross-cultural, and at times swamp-like mingling of genres and styles

Here the overall appearance is soft-edged and inclusive not only of the worn and discarded but also kitsch and working class

Objects evoke emotions associated with everyday endearments and the ability to feel subtlety, nuance and mystery

Versus the impressive authority associated with economic/technological power and status

It is an attraction that relies on an expanded view of nostalgia

One that is less about wanting to recreate the past

And more about honoring the string of ordinary lives that have left their impressions in weathered surfaces, dog-eared pages, worn wood tool handles, and hand-sewn patches

This too is in contrast to the realm of impressive authority with its legendary style of honoring

Applauding the shining accomplishments of the few

Rarely incorporating the many hands that have helped him, and occasionally her, achieve their luster

Rebecca Purcell Archive

Rebecca Purcell Archive

To me layering and complexity is not ‘useless clutter’ or  ‘mere decoration’ without content

Nor is it chaotic (i.e. emotionally unstable…)

In a word the Past-Present aesthetic is incorporative

This means it is inclusive rather than exclusive, egalitarian rather than aspirational

An aesthetic expression of life as multi-dimensional, comprised of subtle relationships, with emotions and the senses woven into its fiber

Reflective of a life that attempts to navigate an increasingly complex terrain

Without immediately discarding the unwanted, grasping for titillation, or aggressively maneuvering to succeed

The Past-Present aesthetic is a collage of objects symbolizing - en masse - the kind of ideals so often subsumed by a pervasive, exoteric worldview that puts little value on the incorporative mycelia web holding everything together

Rebecca Purcell Archive

Rebecca Purcell Archive

Series of interiors sent to me from a friend, origin unknown

Series of interiors sent to me from a friend, origin unknown

Rebecca Purcell Archive

Rebecca Purcell Archive

John Derian interior, Photo: William Abronowicz

John Derian interior, Photo: William Abronowicz

Sean Scherer interior of Kabinett & Kammer

Sean Scherer interior of Kabinett & Kammer

Rebecca Purcell Archive

Rebecca Purcell Archive

Marie Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Marie Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Marie Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

Marie Claire Maison / Rebecca Purcell Archive

 

 

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