Downtown, a 95-year-old neoclassical former bank on Olive near Seventh Street has been restored to its erstwhile opulence and rebranded as the NoMAD Los Angeles hotel. Its magnificent exterior is rivaled only by its lavish jewel-tone, Hollywood Regency–inspired decor, but unless you know where to look, you might easily miss the creatures made of human hair that happen to be squatting inside.
The "family of monsters," as their creator calls them, belong to L.A.-based French artist Charlie Le Mindu, a onetime hairdresser turned visual artist whose main medium, unsurprisingly, is hair. He even has a term for his unique brand of artistry: "haute coiffure." A selection of his work, both old and new, is on view in Charlie Le Mindu: Noir at /THE LAB/ by the French-owned concept store Please Do Not Enter inside the NoMAD.
Raised in Bordeaux, France, Le Mindu was working as a hairdresser when he began exploring new forms of creative expression after moving to Berlin in his late teens. Eventually, his hair-based creations made their way into international multidisciplinary exhibitions and performances, drawing fans like Lady Gaga, who has worn a couple of the artist's signature hair-hats, which can often take months to make. Currently, Le Mindu is getting ready to do a performance for Alexander Wang, and has a new collection coming out in July. He's also working on two ballets, including an upcoming production of Sleeping Beauty in Germany, for which he has the unenviable task of designing about 300 costumes.
Back in L.A., Noir features a range of functional objects such as hats and purses, along with provocative wall-mounted and hanging sculptures. The aforementioned "family of monsters" was not designed to be functional, though. "They're just sculptures," Le Mindu tells L.A. Weekly. But you could easily see a couple of them being used as footstools or ottomans, and the artist would have no objection. "I don't want to be the kind of artist who's like, 'This is just an art piece. It cannot be used.' If you buy something, you can do whatever you want with it. It's your own property."
Le Mindu says that about 90 percent of his human hair comes from Russia, but Noir also features Peruvian hair as well as some hair that comes from yaks. Apparently, the artist has gotten a lot of unexpected positive feedback from vegans and vegetarians as a result. "We're not using any fur. We're not killing anyone for it. Not yet," he laughs.
As the show's title would suggest, almost all the work in Noir is made from hair that is exclusively black. "The reason I made it black is because, when black reflects the light with human hair, you can see the most details and the technique," Le Mindu explains. "What was the most important for me was to show the different textures of hair that I am using, and also, the different details of technique, and with black hair, you can see it the best."
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There's something very tactile about the hair, too — so how does Le Mindu deal with people wanting to touch it? It depends — if they're annoying about it, he'll get annoyed himself. "But if someone wants to touch it because they're interested, that's not a problem," he concedes. "It can be a weird feeling to see human hair in sculptures, because it can be really nice and amazing. And then other people think it's gross. And I totally understand both feelings. But ultimately, it's about creating emotions."
"Charlie Le Mindu: Noir" is on view from noon to 8 p.m. daily through May 9 at /THE LAB/ by Please Do Not Enter inside the NoMAD Los Angeles, 649 S. Olive St., downtown; (213) 263-0037, pleasedonotenter.com.