Back in early March, Michèle Lamy posted an adorable meta selfie with her husband, designer Rick Owens, both beaming in icy Tallinn, Estonia. Were they taking a chilly vacation in the Baltic region? Not quite. Owens and Lamy were in town to visit rapper Tommy Cash, the Estonian musician known for his absurdist Soviet-themed dystopian music videos. Cash and Owens were in talks to launch an exhibition titled “The Pure and the Damned,” which opens to the public today in the city’s Kumu Art Museum and will run until September 15. Cash, who has long wanted to enter the art world, describes the exhibition as “Darkness meets the light. Black meets the color,” adding, “People joked around that I am colorful Rick.”
The history between Cash and Owens goes back to Owens’s Spring 2019 menswear show in Paris, which Cash opened by stomping down the runway in a pair of tent-like pants and a white tank top. Initially, Owens had merely suggested using Cash’s music in the show, but after meeting the rapper in Paris for dinner, the designer invited Cash to walk in it. Shortly after that Spring show, Kati Ilves, who would go on to curate “The Pure and the Damned,” saw Owens’s Milan exhibition “Rick Owens: Subhuman Inhuman Superhuman,” which included a retrospective of his work and a selection of his furniture designs, and proposed the idea of a collaboration with Owens to Cash. “I wrote Rick and he answered pretty much straightaway,” says Cash. “And the rest is history.”
The exhibition provides a look into the creative, often bizarre workings of each artist’s brains. One sculpture with an orb of hair around its head is based off of the Fall 2016 Rick Owens show. Another standout Owens influence comes from the Spring 2016 collection that featured models carrying models: In this exhibition, a Rick mannequin— with a slightly greenish pallor—holds a mannequin on his shoulders. There’s a model of a sleeping Cash as well—complete with his signature pencil-thin mustache—carrying another mannequin on his shoulders. “I had a format that I composed in a retrospective in Milan—I asked him to violate it [the exhibition],” Owens writes.
As for Cash’s violation, his fantastical injection of Soviet kitsch is brightly evident. In the mix with Owens’s black and white creations, there are Slavic household staples, an ode to Cash’s Soviet upbringing. Think: slippers, but crafted out of bread, as well as a classic hanging rug. Another colorful addition? A cheeky painting that features a ménage à trois of horses and Cash posing as a very pregnant woman. “There’s a cheerful, authentic recklessness to what he does,” Owens writes about Cash. “With a classical elegant undertaste. I’m into it.” We’d have to agree.