This collection plays along historical and contemporary elements, a subtle tension between them but never achieving juxtaposition. A play of contrasts between handmade detailing, distressing and industrial looking materials: suede, amber, gold and bronze dominate the pieces. The chains coloration and texture are offset by the clear geometry of the accompanying elements marking it one of the most complex collections to date.
Welcome to Genesee
Where showcasing is a way of life
Everything in Alejandro Artigas‘ house in West Hollywood is for sale. People — friends, relatives, total strangers — are constantly popping in for a visit. They receive a kiss on each cheek in the traditional European manner from 32-year-old Alejandro or his younger sisters Gabriela, who is 30, and Teresita, who is 28. The siblings aren’t having a garage sale. It is like this all the time at the corner of Genesee and Fountain avenues.
Not long ago, the cops stopped by. They did not receive a kiss, but they took a look around at the great natural light, at the clothes made by avant-garde Mexican designers, at the countless stylish items for sale.
What you’re doing is great, is perfect, the police said, but you have to stop. The siblings were in violation of the city’s zoning codes.
The house on Genesee — officially (and subtly) known as the House on Genesee — is located in a residential zone but was being officially and subtly used for commercial purposes.
“Legally we can’t be open all the time,” Alejandro says. “So now we have to say we’re open only by appointment, and we can’t advertise the address. People have to contact us to find out where we are. After they contact us, then there’s been a personal exchange.”
People who come to the house often don’t want to leave. They linger. They conduct meetings in the dining room. They try clothes on in the bathroom. They do yoga in the backyard next to the vegetable garden. Teresita remembers a guy who stopped by on Valentine’s Day. He wound up staying the whole day, parked on the couch, perfectly at home. “Do you have any special plans?” she asked politely.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” he said.
“The original notion of an 18th-century French salon was a public-private space,” says Alejandro, who lives in the house. The bed he sleeps on is for sale. So are the nightstands, the wallpaper and the photographs on the wall. If you want to live exactly as Alejandro does — if you want to use the same vegan shampoo, or light the same pollen soy candles, or wear the same sneakers — these items are all on view and ready to be purchased at the house. Some might call this “stalking.” The Artigas siblings call it “showcasing.”
When someone expressed interest in the chandelier hanging over the dining room table, the siblings hadn’t really thought of selling the various fixtures that are semi-permanently attached to the residence. But then they figured, if they were to truly carry through with their concept of a showcased life, why not?
Are the plants for sale, too?
“Well, if you want them,” Gabriela says.
Is the lamp for sale?
Is the couch for sale?
Is the dog for sale?
“No!” she shrieks. The sleek Italian greyhound skitters across the living room. Well, she allows, Alejandro did put a $9.99 tag on the dog once as a joke.
Pets aside, sometimes items are so perfect, it is hard to part with them. “We had these bronze rabbits — ” Teresita says.
“Amazing bronze rabbits!” Gabriela interrupts.
Things come and things go. Terrariums, the purse slung casually over the doorknob, the slick Trista dresses and Te Amo blazers with ferocious, asymmetrical shoulders, the jewelry that Gabriela makes, even the display cases. Minimalism is the art of letting go.
“Probably we wouldn’t buy another lamp if they bought the lamp. Probably it would be a vase,” Gabriela says.
The house is neat and well presented with almost zero human mess. “The thing is, we’ve always lived like this,” Gabriela says. “My mom’s house is very similar. My house is presentable also.”
“Our grandfather was an architect,” Alejandro explains. “He was very strict. Everything in his closet was perfectly color-coordinated. I saw him wear a suit maybe twice in his life, but he had a row of suits in plastic bags with the belts already threaded through the loops and pocket handkerchiefs in the pockets, and shoes aligned beneath.”
Alejandro’s grandfather, Francisco Artigas, was of the midcentury-modern school, Mexico’s version of Eames. Which means he was the sort of person who liked clean edges, negative space and his cars lined up just so in the driveway. He asked people to kindly dry the bar of soap after they’d washed their hands.
Yes, keeping up a high level of show-readiness is taxing. But it is also deeply ingrained in the siblings, Alejandro especially. He would be miserable not doing it. “It’s like you do a sequence every morning,” he explains. “You make the bed, pick stuff up from the floor, and so on.” After years of practice, chores become habits, which become compulsions, which become beliefs.
“I try to leave my house like no one lives there,” he says proudly.
If people visit, it’s because they can relate aesthetically. Even though the siblings own the house and struggle to pay the mortgage every month, they seem less interested in aggressively selling the stuff inside it than in having people over to check it out.
“We’re showcasing the way we live,” Alejandro says, “and that’s a different form of communication. If you want to buy it, it’s okay. If not, someone else will.”
That they do. Gabriela mentions that every time she leaves the house, someone comes up to her to ask where she got her shirt, or necklace, or whatever, and that she is not bragging, just relaying a point of fact.
Alejandro, who built most of the furniture in the house, like his grandfather, originally studied architecture. He runs his hand over the smooth plane of a desk and says, “Why I do furniture now is because furniture allows me a level of perfection and control that architecture doesn’t.”
For instance, Alejandro designed the clothes rack in his bedroom. It is made of two wishbone-shaped pieces of dark walnut pierced by a chrome pole. He could have joined the two pieces of wood and the pole with little silver bolts, but he couldn’t stand the seam of the pole not being exactly flush with the wood. It is that sort of attention to detail that drives him to distraction.
“I remember pencils,” Gabriela says of her grandfather. “They were on his desk. If one was out of place, he noticed.”
“No, that’s not true,” Alejandro says.
“Yes, he did,” Gabriela says.
The house is perfect, but memory is not.
the above picture is of the luminous Gabriela Artigas wearing her own creations. the Artigas ladies & friends hosted the chill opening of a one month pop up collaboration – The Handmade – between the House on Genesee & Esquivel house & courtyard, featuring the store’s sumptuous shoes & other handcrafted goods – Gabriela’s line of clothes & jewelry, Gentryman‘s accessories for men, tasty salsa & mole concocted & bottled by Gabriela’s super stylistic mum, etc etc… check links for more details. if you’re an Eastsider to the core & would rather not venture west of Vermont Avenue, Echo Park’s cozy Mohawk General Store features Gabriela’s gems. you’ll also find more of my snapshots of the house in here & here… here are more daytime lo-fi mobile pics from the afternoon & beyond:
Genesee + Esquivel
May 22 to June 26
8309 W. 3rd St, Los Angeles, 90048
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Esquivel ARTLESS Gabriela Artigas
Farm Tactics Gentry Man Candy
Carla Fernandez Trista Teamo Zan Zan Eyeware
Yuval Pudik Roxanne Daner Daniel Ingroff John Monn
Bobbi Woods Mr. Artigas Melise Mestayer Janet Levy
Jed Ochmanek Pamela Martinez Marco Rountree Martha Johansson
Alejandro—“Alex” to his friends—Artigas and Thomas John Curtin Jr. are, to use a well-worn phrase, men of parts. In their case, a lot of parts. Curtin, 30, a graduate from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, is an interior designer who creates fine art in multiple media. Artigas, 32, trained as an architect at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Columbia University and has completed several large-scale public-art projects in his family’s native home, Mexico City.
He, too, undertakes interior-design work (though he hastens to note that he does not concern himself with decorative details like curtains and paint colors). And in a faux-neoclassical house at the corner of Genesee and Fountain avenues in West Hollywood, Artigas has established a boutique cum atelier, House on Genesee, where he exhibits and sells the work of creative spirits he admires: artists, fashion designers, shoemakers and jewelry makers such as his sister Gabriela Artigas, whose pieces range from the dramatically ethnographic to the quietly sublime.
More significantly, the two run Artless, a slyly named collaborative founded in 2003. Artigas and Curtin decline to use the term designers, preferring words like investigation and inquiry, which allow for more latitude. Despite the esoteric pronouncements, the two are quite practical. Discussing a piece called GAX—a slab of polished walnut on square aluminum legs—Artigas says, “The world has enough stuff. Why make something that will not last a generation?”
Nearly all of the furnishings in the Artless roster have sleek, spare, Bauhausian lines. The only nod to ornament is the use of color, almost always in earth tones. Again, Artigas waxes philosophical about the intention of such pieces. “Thirty years ago, the ultimate luxury was a big juicy steak covered in béarnaise sauce,” he says.
What Artless does “is more like eating an heirloom tomato. You have a raw material and treat it with minimal intrusions: salt, pepper, oil and that’s it. I think we are after this kind of subtlety.” Sounds tasty—and healthy.
GREGORY CERIO is the editor of Modern Magazine.
A little note on Gabriela Artigas’s rope ring
Welcome to the world of the American GENTRY.
At GENTRY, we believe life is lived in details – the final moments, the finishing touches, the respectful nods to tradition,and the rich heritage of menswear. GENTRY embodies a modern re-thinking of classic accessories for today’s modern gentleman.
GENTRY strives to create timeless pieces to polish any ensemble. Each box set is inspired by the golden era of menswear, a time when attention to detail was just as important as the men who wore them. Each GENTRY set includes a necktie and pocket square, as well as a full set of jewelry (tie pin, tie clip, and collar clip).
“Life lived in details”