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NEW YORK — “I’ve painted on just about everything, from refrigerators to barns. I cover every surface I can think of,” says illustrator Ruben Toledo.
Yet his latest gig is different. He’s illustrating coffee, dining and side tables as well as benches and chairs created by Ralph Pucci. It’s a limited-edition collection, whereby Toledo will paint each piece based on what a customer specifies in the order. This manner of customizing is new to Toledo. “If you love turtles, he’ll paint turtles,” Pucci says. “Sometimes art can be too intellectual and distracting. This is clearly whimsical, surrealistic and fun.”
The Ruben Toledo for Ralph Pucci collection will be unveiled Monday at the Pucci showroom, 44 West 18th Street in Manhattan, in conjunction with the Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Pucci, whose eclectic showroom features art, photography, mannequins and home furnishings, two years ago added to the mix by creating furniture under his label. “It’s modern, very minimal and classic. When you apply Ruben’s painting, it becomes very theatrical but it’s pleasant to live with.”
Pucci also believes it’s a format for furniture destined to be widely copied, though he characterized the project with Toledo as a “fresh take” on a famous collaboration in the Forties and Fifties between the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti who painted furniture by the Italian architect and designer Gio Ponti.
Pucci and Toledo have been collaborating since 1986 on mannequins and wall illustrations, and the designer Isabel Toledo (Ruben’s wife) has dressed Pucci mannequins.
In this latest tie-up, Ruben Toledo uses oil paint on the Pucci furniture, which is in white oak, stainless steel and glass. “The challenge was staying clean and neat,” he says. “I am a rather sloppy artist. I like to work fast and cover a lot of space. This time, I wanted it to be really refined. The beautiful thing here is that since it’s furniture and three-dimensional, it’s got more of a presence and it’s functional. You can sit on these chairs.”