May 2010

True to Form Artigas/Curtin

  • The designers with a custom walnut dining table on Eamesian pedestals
  • A side table with storage
  • An octagonal occasional table.

The Essentialists

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.