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Body Doubles

New York Spaces November 2008

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Art imitates modern life in Ralph Pucci's gallery like design showroom in Chelsea

We live our lives in states of perpetual motion. So it seems fitting that the mannequins designed to emulate us in store windows, fashion galleries, and boutiques do more than simply stand still, looking benignly bored with the world around them. This is New York, after all. And if mannequins today appear to have a life of their own, much credit for monitoring their pulse goes to Ralph Pucci, who designs, manufactures, and unveils new mannequins to the world twice annually in his West 18th Street showroom. The business of making mannequins has come a long way since Pucci's parents, Leda and Nicholas, founded the Pucci Manikin Co. in the basement of their Mount Vernon home in the 1950s. Back then, high fashion exuded an air of unapproachable formality and the hip Chelsea neighborhood where Ralph Pucci International now resides was still considered the heart if Manhattan's bustling Garment District.

It was Ralph who animated the fashion world's life-size dolls and turned them into action figures designed to convey the more casual lifestyle of late-20th-century Americans. From the start, Pucci's mannequins have refused to sit prettily still and watch the world go by; they take stances that suggest athleticism, grace, and a raw energy all their own. Collaborating with designers like Andree Putman and top models, including Christie Turlington and Beverly Peele, Pucci creates sculptural figures that are surprisingly realistic - despite faces reduced to abstract eggs. The body of work speaks for itself.

Mannequins from Ralph Pucci's colorful Motion series (this page and opposite) take the form of abstracted 'shadows' of the human form. Disinclined to stand rigidly at attention, the playful figures, instead, attract all eyes- to themselves and to clothes they wear- by way of playful postures that suggest walking, stretching, dancing, or, simply gesturing during an animated conversation.

This page: Elegant earthling meets space alien in a pop surrealist figure from the Organics collection, designed in collaboration with artist Kenny Scharf.

Opposite page, clockwise from top left:
An ethereal form from the Motion series. Running Kids from Pucci's Blank series. Youthfully chiseled and painted by hand, this pair from the Downtown series was designed in partnership with Robert Clyde Anderson. More Motion, in green.

Text by Marjorie E. Gage
Produced by Nicole Haddad