Hair artist Bob Recine is fascinated by the idea of adornment as a means of communication, and uses his expertise in hair to do just that. Pushing the material to its limits, his sculptural headpieces can be interpreted as hairstyles, or equally, as art objects which just happen to sit upon the head. Renowned for his inventive assemblages, in Recine’s hands, distinctly everyday objects – plasticine, pins, matchsticks – are transformed into surreal and captivating head sculptures.
Growing up in 1970s New York, Recine first began to find his feet in the creative world as a young musician and artist. It was Andy Warhol who introduced him to the legendary French hairdresser Jean Louis David, who, recognising Recine’s talent, offered him the chance to move to Paris to immerse himself in hair artistry.
Bob Recine photographed by Alberto Maria Colombo (INFRINGE Magazine)
Bob Recine, 2004 (i-D Magazine)
Recine has since created a vast and varied catalogue of work which includes sculpture, photography, collage and painting. Well known for his work with celebrities including Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton, his collaborations with top photographers such as Mario Sorrenti, Helmut Newton and Irving Penn have pushed the boundaries of hair within the editorial image.
Alongside this, Recine has worked on a series of fine art collaborations with Vanessa Beecroft and Bjarne Melgaard, and devised immersive window installations for New York department store Barneys. His work fluidly moves between the realms of fashion, beauty and fine art. Recine views the parameters differently, or rather, does not feel the need to align himself with one or the other. “Whether I’m working alone, on a photoshoot, for a store or in collaboration with an artist, I personally don’t really see the differences between those fields,” he explains, “I feel like it’s all a sense of alchemy and collaboration”. This idea is beautifully realised in his book Alchemy of Beauty, released in 2012. Featuring original artwork by Recine, the photographs, sketches and paintings offer a tantalising glimpse into the artist’s working process.
Recine spoke to INFRINGE about exploration, transformation and the role of magic in his life and art.
Mario Sorrenti, 1996 (Numéro Magazine)
“I personally consider the fabric of hair a very magical substance”
Bob Recine, 2004 (Exit Magazine)
Your practice is very multifaceted. Does it appeal to you to be able to create work across different spheres, and to move freely between disciplines? Well, I have to tell you that I don’t really see the difference between what others might consider different disciplines. I think hair is art and art is hair. You can create a sculpture in marble or a sculpture in hair – I think it takes the same interest. You know, originally I never really had any intention to be a hairdresser. But working on a project in art that involved hair, I soon discovered the real arena of hair and understood that, for me, there really is no difference.
Your work often makes reference to themes such as magic and ritual. Why do these themes interest you? I think my interest in what they call the world of ‘high magic’ is in the power of conviction and belief. Magic is a very real part of my life, I personally consider the fabric of hair a very magical substance. It lasts for eons, whereas the flesh disintegrates. It serves as a kind of record, a history. I hope that in the future they will be able to extract a person from the molecule, the structure of a strand of hair. I’m very in tune with that – the futuristic aspect of the material, as well as its present magic.
Installation View, The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment, Bjarne Melgaard with Bob Recine, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Paris, February 5 – March 14, 2015
Mario Sorrenti, 2008, Hairpin Sculpture By Recine
Could you tell me about your book Alchemy of Beauty? What inspired you to create this? Well, I think when a person wants to do a book it has to retain what that person’s quest and real interest is. I remember putting the book together and having people tell me, “why don’t you put in more of the celebrities you’ve worked with, or more things that relate to the fashion business?” And you know, I have to say that I never had a great aspiration to be those things – to work with celebrities, or certain aspects of the so-called fashion business. When people say, “Oh you’re Bob Recine, the famous hairdresser, what do you think of my hair?” I say, “well, I actually really don’t think of your hair. I don’t have that mind-set, of “well, it should be a little bit of this, a bit of that”. Which of course is a part of me, but that part is, let’s say, the commercial end of what we do. My interest is in transformation, in the mystery and the power of beauty. That amazing, powerful engine within all of us that responds to the beauty of a woman, of a child, of innocence, of demonic power. It is all, I believe, the alchemy of beauty. I think that’s what my book really underscores. I want it to say that this is what I believe the future holds, in my point of history and time.
Bob Recine, 2004 (Exit Magazine)
Tom Sibley, Installation View, Gaga’s Boudoir, Barney’s, New York, 2011