Design alchemist Arik Levy questions conventionality, posing the question, "When is a chair not a chair?" We profile the talented man who is currently the talk of the design world.

Arik Levy Rocks!

Design alchemist Arik Levy questions conventionality, posing the question, "When is a chair not a chair?"

Creating a narrative that goes beyond the beauty of a sketch, Arik Levy creates thought-provoking designs that question convention.

Arik Levy's definition of luxury:

If luxury were...

An object
Square meters or oxygen.

A place
Here, now.

A person
My family.

A moment
The next moment.

Arik Levy's star has been ascending since the early part of the decade. Today, it is impossible to pick up a design magazine without spotting his Mondrian-style Level bookcase for Zanotta or one of his many forms inspired by his current obsession, rocks. A large, cold, foreboding mineral seems an unlikely form of inspiration, not at all in keeping with the designer's famous charm, but this is precisely the kind of reaction Levy's work seeks to evoke. Mixing the disciplines of science and creativity, Levy's unique formula is, by his own admission "techno-poetic." For the Paris-based, Israeli-born designer/artist, industrial design is not merely a solution, it should call to question not only its form, but its purpose: a rock is found outdoors, so what place does it have indoors? How does a chair become a light? "The origin of what I do is a narrative which goes beyond the beauty of a sketch. The rocks are not about imitating nature, it's about dealing with other things," he explains. It is his strong narrative style derived from a connection with nature and an insatiable curiosity that have led so many of today's leading high-end industrial design brands, from Vitra to Ligne Roset, to his door. His talent is so highly regarded that he has reached the rarefied position of demanding that non-commercial explorations should be accepted as part of a work brief. "The philosophy of my office is two things: one is that the office should buy me time and give me money to do my personal projects, which are anything that are not to do with the clients' brief. It's specific, it's experience. I can decide to go for three weeks to work in the Himalayas, and that's part of my experience, and it's very good. It has no commercial purpose in any way; the second is never to do a project that I don't want to do. It's not about turning something down, it's about knowing what not to select," says Levy.

Like many of today's designers, Levy's is a multi-disciplinary talent extending beyond design, an alchemy of artistic outlets from filmmaking to graphic design – the products of an overactive mind. This year alone, he has launched no fewer than 20 industrial design products, as well as countless graphic projects that his studio, which he runs with business partner Pippo Lionni, also undertakes, and a recent exhibition: Absent Nature - his first major solo show in the US, at Chicago's Wright auction house. After spotting Levy's work at his 2007 Cosmic Nature exhibition in London, the company's director, Richard Wright, invited him to feature as the house's debut stand-alone exhibition. "Arik's work has a poetic simplicity that makes it both direct and beautiful, yet the works are also highly rigorous and astoundingly thoughtful. This is what first captured my attention. The forms and materials are accessible, captivating and original, a combination that I personally find inspiring and wanted to share with my clients," enthuses Wright.

An evolution of his highly successful rock series, remaining faithful to the organic themes that dominate his work, for Absent Nature Levy turned his attention to logs, with a limited edition collection of imposing forms in blackened wood and steel, and a short film in which the artist emphasizes an absence in nature, which we are creating, illustrated by the chopping of an already-felled tree. "It is an absence we are creating by killing what is already there and replanting to kill again. There is an obsession surrounding that because we are saying, 'We are good because we are replanting, but we're going to cut it again and replant.' But the soil is getting weak," he explains. "It is not about killing something that is alive, but what is already dead." The exhibition also revisited his Fractal Cloud, first shown in Paris's Centre Pompidou in 2004. Created from over one thousand light tubes intertwined, Levy expanded on the original idea to create a powerful, commanding objet d'art.

Reflection is a common theme in Levy's work. For the Paris design event, Designer Days, in early June this year, Italian furniture manufacturer Cassina commissioned the designer to create the store's scenography. Revisiting some of the brand's most iconic models, such as Gerrit T. Rietveld's 1935 Utrecht, and Gio Ponti's 1937 Superleggera, in his off-beat, conceptual style he forces viewers to take a different perspective. However conceptual his work may often appear, there is a feeling of familiarity within his style that stems from an emotional, sensorial need in design. Rather than following fads or personal stylistic nuances, he follows a more practical philosophy that beauty and function can indeed coalesce, or as he puts it, "sculptures to live with." But, with Arik Levy's work, there is always a twist. "It is important to stop thinking about a chair as a chair, but rather as a sculpture - when you don't sit on it, when you look at it and the way that it behaves in a space - otherwise you should just buy a folding chair and hide it." He explains. "My new Molteni designs are also sculptures to live with, but they are more diluted, while the art pieces show that you can still have a very strong opinion about something and use it as an instrument, as a jumping board to something else." The inevitable question is, what will Arik Levy jump into next?

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