Monday, February 20, 2012

A Discussion With Coiffure’s Reigning Fine Artist, Bob Recine -“The Alchemy Of Beauty”

Where do you derive most of your influence?

My biggest influences are really being able to combine cultures—not only cultures, but science. I’m really fascinated by building. When we talk about hair, we constrain ourselves. We say we use hair spray, we use gel, but I think you need to look outwards to make the inward advance. When people ask me what inspires me, I really can’t think of anything that doesn’t . A little girl and the way she wears her pigtails, a bum on the street and the way he wears his hat—it’s an anthropological equation.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way that you’re able to slip in and out of red-carpet hair and more avant-garde editorial looks. Are you more satisfied by one versus the other?

I can’t really differentiate between the two and that really is the crux of my book. When I told people a few years ago that I was doing a book, they said, “Oh, is it going to be celebrities?” But I’ve never been typical in my field and I relish in that a little bit. I don’t really have different hats—it’s all the same thing for me. I don’t take my cues from old books, or old references. I prefer to be alive at the zenith of the moment of now—I’m a modern builder in that sense. A creator, a hairdresser—it’s all the same thing.

Where did your initial interest in beauty come from?

All I can tell you is that ever since I was a child, I was completely fascinated with beauty in all its forms. That was my attraction to becoming a hairdresser, to fashion—being fascinated by the creative act of adornment. You know, through history people have always adorned themselves, and I’ve always been into the sorcery and power of what that means. For a person who they say is a “beauty expert,” I see it differently in a way. I have to tell you that [beauty] comes in many forms and its importance is how it’s utilized in the moment. That’s my perception and infatuation with beauty.

How did you and Gaga wind up as collaborators and friends?

At this stage in my career, I feel like people are looking in a weird way to collaborate. I think Gaga’s interest in me is that I’m inventive—I’m not afraid to take chances. When I go to work with her, it’s like, “Show me what you’ve you got. What have you brought for me.” It’s more of a learning process. She brings ideas too. When it comes down to it, I have to come up with an idea about what we’re about to empower.

Do you have a room or a storage space dedicated to saving some of the more elaborate hair sculptures you’ve created?

A warehouse is more like it! There are a lot of things I try to hang on to—the most important things.

Like what?

I made this amazing headdress that works with hooks. It was basically my concept of plastic surgery. Mario Sorrenti was dying to shoot it for some publication. It ran in French Vogue. Those kinds of things I like to hang on to because they have a lot more meaning. And the safety pin headdresses that I’ve made are important enough for me to hang on to for a bit. And they take an enormous amount of work. The main piece of the show [at the Hole gallery]—which is a lifesize model of a woman made out of safety pins—took about eight months to make.

Have you done anything recently that is worthy of the “Warehouse”?

Did you see my windows that I did for Barneys?! They stole the show form Gaga—and she knew it. It was really something to behold to stand in front of them. Gaga was like, “You know what Bob, your thing was hands down the most incredible thing here.” One of the best compliments I got was from [the hairdresser] Christiaan. He sent me a text that said, “Bob, I’m standing in front of your fucking window at Barneys and it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.” I wrote him back immediately and said, “Coming from you, that’s a huge compliment.”
Bob Recine is a beauty visionary if ever there was one. A well-established hairdresser who is equally comfortable crafting demure runway looks backstage at Jill Stuart and prepping Gwyneth Paltrow and Charlize Theron for the red carpet as he is constructing elaborate headpieces for Lady Gaga, Recine is a master of many mediums—all of which he frequently brings into his unique approach to coiffure. “I see it differently,” Recine says of the generally held views of hairdressing, which tend to have a small vocabulary as far as creative experimentation is concerned. A talented illustrator, sculptor, and occasional shutterbug, Recine refuses to be confined to scissors and combs—a fact that can readily be seen in his vast body of work that has, for the first time, been collected into a new book. Bob Recine: The Alchemy of Beauty (Freedman/Damiani; 2011) hits shelves next month and features a selection of Recine’s favorite editorial collaborations with photographer Mario Sorrenti as well as choice Polaroids, paintings, and construction projects that he has undertaken over the years. “I’ve never been typical in my field and I relish in that a little bit,” he says.

Tonight, New York’s The Hole gallery will premiere a three-day beauty pop-up exhibition dedicated to Recine’s new tome and curated by Jacqueline Miro, and we’ve got an exclusive sneak peak of some of the works that will be on display right here. Below, Recine—a self-proclaimed “modern builder”—reflects on his illustrious career, which hit a high note a few months ago when he had a chance to “[steal] the show” from Lady Gaga.
—Celia Ellenberg

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