Carpet-maker Joseph Carini weaves street art into floor art
Tribeca Joseph Carini deals in luxury. His company, Carini Lang, produces custom, hand-crafted carpets that can sell for well into five figures. But he has always paid attention to what happens at street level.
"I always noticed graffiti," said Carini, a native New Yorker. "It was always in my periphery, my consciousness."
Now, he's incorporating unsanctioned art into his carpets. "Back Against the Wall," a collection of 20 one-of-a-kind carpets inspired by contemporary graffiti and street art, opened in Carini Lang's Tribeca showroom on April 23.
The series started as a personal curiosity and became a collaboration with street artists Carini admired. During the peak of Occupy Wall Street, Carini, who now lives in Brooklyn, found himself wandering the streets of lower Manhattan, camera in tow, photographing street art.
"I think what really drew me was the humor in it, the provocation of thought, and the daring," said Carini, who's tall and ruggedly built, with a firm handshake and thinning reddish-blonde hair. "Daring to go against the gentrified police state. That's what appealed to me about it personally. Having grown up in the city, I watched it go from being gentrified and cleaned up, which was fine, to really becoming a real estate gold mine."
After photographing the scene for a few months in 2011, Carini made an experimental, one-off carpet incorporating the work of an artist called BEAU, and was pleased with the results. He tracked down BEAU online and sent him a photograph of the carpet. Around the same time, Carini, who's also a collector, bought a drawing by the street artist RAE, who happened to be an admirer of Carini's work and was interested in a collaboration.
"I was kind of cooking this idea, but I wasn't really sure how that community would respond to it," said Carini, who has collaborated with artists before, including his young children. Most recently he worked with interior designer Andy Goldsborough on a series of camouflage carpets.
BEAU and RAE helped curate the show, Carini said, by introducing him to new work and connecting him with other street artists, many of whom are elusive.
"They're really not interested in commercialism," Carini said about many of the artists involved. "A lot of them had to meet me and like the work I was doing. They said they did it because it was beautiful. They wouldn't want to do some sell-out, cheesy show on graffiti."
Like all of Carini Lang's carpets, the pieces for "Back Against the Wall" were hand-woven in Nepal by master artisans who produce exclusively for Carini Lang. His business is one of the last in the world, he said, that utilizes ancient Tibetan techniques and completely hand-made processes, from fabric spinning and dying to weaving. Because of the intricate knotting techniques and the quality of the materials, Carini Lang carpets have a supple, sumptuous quality more akin to throw blankets than utilitarian décor. Since the hand-crafted designs are so intricate-Carini likens the carpets to "paintings with pixels of wool and silk"-the pieces take around six months to produce, and some larger rugs will sell for anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000. Carini did create some smaller, simpler pieces to sell for $2,000 with the hope that less-affluent collectors could afford them.
After the opening, the carpets will likely be up on the walls of the Carini Lang showroom on Greenwich Street through May. Some of the artists will be present for the opening celebration on April 23, though they're notoriously surreptitious. Sometimes, Carini said, gallerists who show street art don't even know the identities of the artists.
That he's taken illicit, anti-commercial expressions and turned them into high-end luxury pieces that only wealthy collectors can afford isn't lost on Carini.
"There's always a hesitancy about that," he said.