Saturday, December 13, 2008

TMITF on break until after the New Year

Dear TMITF Readers:

This year has been full of excitement and volatility. Despite the current economic recession, artists are nonetheless committed to their daily practices of making art. They continue to create fresh, new and inventive work in order to sustain our ever-growing appetites for the visual arts. Along the same lines, museums and galleries are tightening up their belts a bit in an effort to continue to give the public the best programming that they have to offer, given the grave financial circumstances surrounding the financial markets. These are tough times to say the least, but sometimes economic meltdowns help us reevaluate ourselves and how we choose to support the arts.

Since the launch of TMITF back in June 2008, I have received several kind notes and accolades (and some sporadic diatribes) about the blog and the things I chose to feature. I am grateful for ALL of the feedback, both positive and negative, and continue to absorb as much as possible in order to present you with a solid snapshot of current happenings within the greater creative community of L.A.

Through it all, I would like to convey a special thanks to all the loyal readers of this blog and hope that you will continue to read my posts in 2009. It's much more difficult to manage a blog than I had originally envisioned. Spending late (sometimes sleepless) nights writing/editing posts, consuming copious amounts of coffee; not to mention the occasional swig from the bottle. All, demands of the job, I guess? But it is something that I truly enjoy doing and am thankful that I have the time and energy to make TMITF a reality.

Taras Matla

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Artist That Went Beyond Painting Pretty Pictures

Mixing Business with Pleasure

My first post on LACMA's blog, Unframed, is online now. I wrote a succinct, yet focused piece on California artist Millard Sheets and his influence on architecture in Southern California. Read it here!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Architecture As An Accessioned Work of Art?

DISCLAIMER: This article references my employer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The views expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LACMA, LACMA's leadership, LACMA's Board, or LACMA's staff. Furthermore, the views posted on this blog have not been influenced in any way by the aforementioned parties.

The scope of collecting getting larger and larger -- literally!!!

Today, on The Times' blog, Culture Monster, Christopher Hawthorne posted a brief write-up on the potential for museums to start collecting irreplaceable works of architecture as part of their permanent collections. The Indianapolis Museum of Art is on the right track by following through with a deal to acquire Eero Saarinen's Miller House from the surviving members of the Miller family. I think that this action finally breaks the ice for museums that have long wanted to pursue this kind of activity, but have been hesitant to do so -- especially during the current economic downturn. Concurrently, it potentially sets the stage for a tug-of-war between museums, foundations and other non-profit ownership of residential architecture.

Eero Saarinen's Miller House, 1952
The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Setting up a non-profit foundation with an endowment is key for ensuring long-term sustainability for significant structures like these. Strong examples include the Eames Foundation and the Philip Johnson Glass House (under the opposes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation). Any property owner can tell you that owning a building has it's ups and downs, especially if it's a historic one. Neutra's VDL II House in Silver Lake is a good example of how a lack of funding and a starved endowment -- and in my opinion, a real lack of financial commitment by Cal Poly Pomona -- can perpetuate a structure's continued disrepair. Let's not kid ourselves, there's plenty of bureaucratic fat that can be trimmed at the administrative level of any university in order to fund a worthwhile project like this.

Ray and Charles Eames built the Eames House (a.k.a. Case Study House No. 8) in 1949.

I know that LACMA has expressed interest in possibly pursuing such avenues, but they should perhaps remain a bit on the cautious side. While it's nice to have historic modern homes in your collection, they should only do so if (a) the price is really too good to pass up or (b) it's a donation, as was the case in Indianapolis. Anything other than those two approaches should be pursued with the utmost caution and precision. A part of a museum's responsibility to the public is to collect and present objects of exceptional aesthetic quality, and place them into an art historical context. In a traditional museum, you can achieve this with great success when you're dealing with easily movable objects, let's say, sculptures, paintings, antiquities, decorative arts, etc. However, collecting architecture is a bit more tricky because of issues pertaining to geographic location, high maintenance costs and the ability to have consistent attendance without alienating the neighbors around you. In other words, you can't treat residential architecture in L.A. like the Cloisters.

Houses were really designed to be functional places to live in, not for curious museum goers to trounce around in. I know my argument may seem a bit uptight, but the best way for this concept to work is to have these structures remain independent and occupied by passionate people who understand their importance to the community at large. Perhaps, we could see the formation of a consortium of modern houses in L.A. that works together to offer tours of various houses in the L.A. area on an ongoing basis? One thing is definitely clear -- more must be done about this situation because time is running out to save the irreplaceable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Patriotic Posts on Election Day

Vote, vote, vote...

No matter whom you vote for today, get inspired by checking out some of these great posts regarding the flag in contemporary art on MAN -- cue shameless plug -- including yours truly on Ed Kienholz. And for those who follow the political art of Robbie Conal, here's one of my favorite guerrilla works from the 2000 presidential election.

Robbie Conal, 2000, (Left) Tastes Like Chicken!, (Right) The Other White Meat!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Glory, New Perspectives

Pledging Allegiance to Poultry

Building on Tyler Green's "The flag in contemporary art" theme on MAN last week, I figured I'd post something on TMITF that not only fits the criteria, but is also an amazing and provocative piece of art that should come out from hiding at LACMA -- especially in an election year! My choice is Edward Kienholz's The U.S. Bird, or Home from the Summit.

The year was 1960 and Dwight D. Eisenhower was concluding his second, and final, term as president of the U.S. Preparing for what he had hoped would be the final accolade of his presidency, Eisenhower received word that on May 1st, the U.S.S.R. had shot down an American U-2 spy plane that had allegedly violated Soviet airspace. This was not the news he had hoped for weeks prior to the convening of an important meeting of the post-war Big Four -- the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. After several days of down playing the incident as an unfortunate crash of a U.S piloted "weather" surveillance plane, Eisenhower was later pressured to concede that the aircraft was, indeed, engaged in activities of a more clandestine nature. As the summit began on May 16th in Paris, a furious Nikita Khrushchev denounced Eisenhower and the U.S. for engaging in such behavior toward the Soviet Union and stormed out of the summit. Consequently, the main issues of the summit, which included the division of Berlin and nuclear arms control, became stalled and were never fully resolved.

Fast forward, 48 years later, and you can definitely see how such a piece could continue to resonate with viewers given the U.S's current reputation on the world stage. This work contains several symbolic narratives which allude to the failed Paris summit. The stuffed duck, possibly picked off by a skilled hunter, gives off the appearance of being tarred in red, white and blue paint, its lifeless body crammed into a coffin-like box. Kienholz is clearly making a bold political statement regarding the lame duck presidency and failed foreign policies of Eisenhower. He insinuates that the president came home from the Paris summit just as a dead U.S. soldier would come home from a conflict region -- in a pine box, draped in an American flag.

Another interesting point as to why Kienholz may have chosen to use a duck, rather than another animal, is because the comparison between a duck and a U-2 spy plane, in this case, is striking. Ducks are capable of flying at extremely high altitudes and, as a result, are very difficult to shoot down once in full flight. That is why, more often that none, hunters who stumble upon a flock of ducks will startle them in hopes of getting a clear shot just before they approach an altitude where a shotgun slug could no longer reach them. While the tone of the work may seem to be more on the serious side, there is also a thin veil of humor embedded within. In my opinion, the composition of a duck in a box also implies the act of gift giving. In this gesture, Kienholz is presenting us with a literal depiction of "flipping off" the viewer. Yes, sometimes giving someone the bird is patriotic!

Edward Kienholz
The U.S. Duck, or Home from the Summit, 1960
Mixed media/assemblage/collage, Construction,
26 7/16 x 21 1/4 x 6 in. (67.15 x 53.98 x 15.24 cm)
Michael and Dorothy Blankfort Bequest
© Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz.
Photograph © 2002 Museum Associates/LACMA.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Power 100 from

She Blinded Me With Science!!!

L.A. Times arts writer, Suzanne Muchnic, posted a brief mention of The Power 100 list from on The Times' Culture Monster blog. Cutting to the chase, the top slot went to Damien Hirst and his company, Science Ltd. When he's not playing around with livestock and formaldehyde, he's probably dabbling in bling that would make Liberace hyperventilate. Yes, I'm talking about For The Love of God, the life-size platinum skull set with 8,601 high-quality diamonds. While we can discuss whether or not he should have been number one or not, there was someone else on the list that made me cringe -- THOMAS KINKADE?!?! Who includes Thomas Kinkade on a list like this? Sure, he came in dead last at # 100, but I feel that ArtReview really missed the mark on this one. Well, I guess there is something to be said about the strong lobbying power of the AARP!

Damien Hirst
For The Love of God, 2007

Friday, September 19, 2008

TMITF Will Be Back Soon!

Stay Tuned...

Hello loyal readers! I'm back from my trip and, evidently, it was more difficult for me to blog from South Africa than I had previously thought. I was constantly on the move and did not have a chance to do any posting -- SORRY!!! I'll be sorting all of my notes in the upcoming weeks and hope to bring you all up to speed by early October.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Neutra's Maxwell House Relocated

Neutra's Movin' on Up (To the East Side), to a Deluxe Parcel in Angeleno Heights

There was a great article in today's L.A. Times regarding Richard Neutra's Maxwell House being moved from Brentwood to Angeleno Heights. Having lamented several Neutra houses that have met the all-too-common fate of the wrecking ball, it was inspiring to read about the strong collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to save such a great example of Neutra's residential work. While it is troubling, at times, to see a structure such as this one removed from its original location -- location being an important component of the architecture's over-all design -- at least the house will live on to see another day. Read about the move here and see the images here.

Maxwell House (1941) in Brentwood, CA, Richard Neutra

Friday, August 22, 2008

TMITF in South Africa

I'm leaving for South Africa (with a brief stop in Swaziland) next week and will be visiting a lot of interesting places. Please make sure to check back frequently, as I plan to blog about my journey on TMITF -- if I can connect to the Internet, that is! Some things to look forward to:
  • Indigenous art of Swaziland
  • Arts and culture scene of Soweto (near Johannesburg)
  • Ancient San rock painting in the Cedarberg region
  • Plus more stuff...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Horror of Tradition at Andrew Shire Gallery

Artists Bound Together by the Common Thread of Tradition

One of the main catalysts that propelled me toward a career in the arts was an early exposure to traditional arts and crafts of my ancestral homeland, Ukraine. Growing up in a highly-charged ethnic household, my parents' house was decorated floor-to-ceiling with traditional arts and crafts of the motherland -- wood carvings, delicately inlaid boxes and plates, exquisitely painted pottery, vibrantly colored Easter eggs, and last, but certainly not least, cross-stitched embroidery. Click here
to see some examples.

My mother has always had an affinity for cross-stitching and is quite the connoisseur. She would always remark that good embroidery tells a very important narrative about the maker and what s/he feels -- not just on the front of the work, but also the back-side. The work should always appear neat, balanced, free of frayed ends and most importantly, executed in such a way that you may have difficulty distinguishing which side is which.

However, tradition also has its fair share of limitations. Most 'traditional' work is highly redundant and allows for very little, if any, deviation from established convention. John Souza, a curator at Andrew Shire Gallery, has a different take on the traditional craft of needlepoint. He organized
The Horror of Tradition, an exhibition that strives to reacquaint the viewer with the long forgotten tradition of needlecraft practices, but with a more contemporary flair.

"The show is the result of innumerable studio visits, research and conversations with artists," said Souza. "It could have easily included the work of fifty artists -- or more! But the opportunity to do this show also came with welcome challenges, which include a limited production time and smallish-gallery space." In many ways, the exhibition reads as a showroom highlighting the works of a collective artist sweatshop, each artist scurrying to get pieces done because of the high demand and a limited time frame.

While the artists employ various techniques from needlecraft tradition, their work is anything but traditional. This show is a fresh, progressive and forward thinking approach toward sewing and art making. In Sophia Allison's work Flo Wrestling Mask, the piece gives of a highly fetishized aura. There is a sense of both uneasiness and intrigue. It establishes a push-and-pull effect between the materials -- finely sewn felt, beads and sanitary napkins -- which make up the mask, and the idea of identity.

Sophia Allison, Flo Wresling Mask, 2005

Felt, beads, maxi pads
20" x 7" x 9"

Robert Fontenot's America the bu-tee-fide brings new life to a tattered and lifeless portrayal of Old Glory. In most cases, a flag in such poor condition would be deemed unacceptable for use by military standards. Yet, the addition of cotton flower appliqués and foliated fabric seems to indicate a sense of hope, optimism and re-birth for an object that has obviously seen better days.

Robert Fontenot, America the bu-tee-fide, 2004

Hand applique, cotton and nylon on cotton
60" x 31"

Starlie Geikie's embroidered pieces serve as vivid reminders that many long hours go into creating these highly detailed works, such as Carrie. This specific piece is no more than 7" x 5", but it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer, interms of technique and subject matter. Focusing on Hollywood horror films, the work draws its inspiration from stereotypical depictions of women and their many states of apprehensiveness in key cinematic moments. Furthermore, the piece allows you to ponder the eerie feeling of having just walked into a somewhat awkward situation, either before or right after a climactic event occurred.

Starlie Geikie, Carrie, 2004
Wool thread, embroidery canvas

6 3/4" x 4 3/4"

Scouting out the area around the exhibition space, Evelyn Serrano photo-documented the purchase of a shirt from a homeless person and then modified it by embroidering it with a design using the ever-so-time-consuming needle and thread approach. The object presents a commentary on the human body as a site for social exchange. It's as if this shirt were a family quilt being passed on from one person to the next, each owner having the responsibility of adding a documentational note of past ownership.

Evelyn Serrano, Shirts Off Their Backs series: John, 2008

26" x 20"

While looking at Liz Young's work, I was somehow reminded of Gerhard Richter's painting Hirsch (1963). Not because of the use of wildlife or the striking compositional resemblance, but rather because of a commitment to the reinterpretation of a medium and the pursuit of a more relevant context for the time in which it was produced. With respect to Richter, no one painted like he did. He painted almost exact copies of photographs, he painted on photographs, and at times sporadically jump back-and-forth between representational art and chaotic abstraction. It is the same kind of energy and excitement that I came across while viewing this exhibition. This group of sophisticated stitchers certainly proves that sometimes hanging on by a thread can be a good thing.

Liz Young, Deer Target/Crow, 2007

Thread on paper archery target
36" x 48"

The exhibition is on view at Andrew Shire Gallery from July 31st-September 6th, 2008; 3850 Wilshire Blvd. #107, Los Angeles; Open Tuesday-Saturday 11a.m.-6p.m.; (213) 389-2601; Free.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner at the Hammer Museum

John Lautner, Mar Brisas Residence, Acapulco, Mexico, 1973.
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission.
Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute.
Photo by Julius Shulman.

The Alluring Spell of the Sleek and Seductive

I figured that I would begin this Lautner post with a quote from the indisputable champion of architectural polemics, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, but you may know him as Le Corbusier. It was Le Corbusier who once stated that: "I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies." If you've read my past reviews, it's obvious that I constantly stress the importance of drawing and it's relevance to the cultivation and refinement of an idea or concept.

John Lautner was a phenomenal draftsman and had a way of conveying his many ideas on paper. His drawings allowed clients to visualize not only what the final outcome would be, but also the atmosphere and ambiance that the space would create. The idea of what you would see and experience beyond the structures was always at the forefront of his work.

John Lautner, Study; Alto Capistrano development project 1963–69, graphite on paper.
The John Lautner Archive, Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.
© The John Lautner Foundation.

The core of the exhibition is comprised of rarely seen archival materials and drawings from the Lautner archive. The various renderings and blueprints are carefully laid out on individual, drafting table-inspired pedestals, which cast a spotlight on the notion of an architect in a studio environment. Surrounding some of the drawings were strategically placed models. Ranging in scale, the models provided a three-dimensional reference point for the contemplation of how these structures would play out on their respective landscapes.

John Lautner. Construction drawing; section and elevation, Chemosphere (Malin) 1960, graphite on arch vellum.
The John Lautner Archive, Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.
© The John Lautner Foundation.

The most well-known of his commissions was the Malin House (1960), more commonly referred to as the Chemosphere. This mushroom cap-shaped structure is not your typical hideaway in the hills. The house was originally built for Leonard Malin and his family. Malin was a young aerospace engineer who acquired the precipiced parcel from his father-in-law. He also played a principle role in several important aspects of the house's development, mechanical systems and construction. While the terrain proved almost impossible to tame, Lautner came up with a fairly rudimentary solution -- place the entire structure on a single, free-standing column.

John Lautner. Chemosphere (1960), exterior shot at night.
Photo by Joshua White.

The Theme Building (1961) at LAX, designed by Paul R. Williams (while he was working for the well-known firm of William Pereira & Charles Luckman), is based on the same principle. The two intersecting arcs have very little, if any bearing on the structural integrity of the building. If you look closely at the image that I provided below, you can make out the concrete center post that carries the weight of the structure and creates the ever-so-recognizable hovering effect that we've all come to know and love. Whether one knew of the other's projects or not cannot be confirmed, but it does make for a striking comparison, with respect to innovative engineering of that period.

Paul Williams standing in front of the Theme Building (1961) at LAX.

A profound sense of lyricism and conviction could be found in Lautner's works. His work bridged the urban and the rustic , the wild and the tame, the real and the supernatural.The Mar Brisas Residence (1973) in Acapulco, Mexico captures the imagination in a way that no other Lautner structure does. The house hovers above the ocean and gives off an impression of flight without having your feet come off the ground. The water-moat rail surrounding the residence merges with the ocean and sky, further cementing the idea of unity within a given environment. The sculptural qualities of the house, from the rhythmic roof line to the sleek concrete arcs that make up permanent table-tops, benches and bridges, conveys the feeling of being in a well-choreographed ballet.

John Lautner. Mar Brisas Residence (1973), Acapulco, Mexico.
Photo by Joshua White.

In conclusion, John Lautner rocks, so go see this exhibition!

The exhibition is on view at the Hammer Museum from July 13th-October 12th, 2008; 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Westwood; Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 11 a.m.-7 .p.m, Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Closed Mondays, and all legal holidays; (310) 443-7000; $7 Adults, $5 Seniors (65+) and UCLA Alumni Association Members with ID; Free for Museum members, students with ID, UCLA faculty and staff, and visitors 17 and under accompanied by an adult; Free on Thursdays for all visitors.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Baroque Treats for the Eye, Ear and Soul

Angel Playing Zither, Angel Playing Bagpipe, and Angel Playing Timbrels, 14th century

Cultural immersion at its best

Under the gazing eyes of Lucas Cranach the Elder's depictions of Adam and Eve, and Hans Memling's panel painting of Christ Giving His Blessing, Harmonia Baroque Players will perform baroque chamber music, as well as medieval and renaissance-era pieces this Friday, July 25th, at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Moreover, the concert will be performed with the use of period instruments and held in the museum's early- renaissance gallery. Sure, you could always bring your best iPod mix of Bach or Händel to the gallery, but there's something to be said about simultaneously contemplating the brilliance of notable masters of both sight and sound. Such a performance is a rare treat, indeed, so get there early if you want to get a good seat.

Also, while you're there make sure to stop by my favorite work at the Norton Simon, Francisco de Zurbarán's Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose. The only still life signed and dated by the artist, many scholars believe that this painting was executed by Zurbarán as a mystical evocation of the Virgin Mary. Find out about the work here. Whether you tend to read more into the symbolic qualities or metaphysical implications of this memorizing canvas (or simply enjoy a good still-life painting now and then), there's something for everyone to enjoy. I think that this is probably one of the most remarkable still life paintings in the U.S. The fact that a painting of such exceptional quality made it from Europe to Pasadena is truly nothing short of a miracle!

Harmonia Baroque Players at the Norton Simon Museum; 411 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena; Performance begins at 7:00 p.m.; (626) 449-6840; Admission $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, free for students with valid I.D. and patrons aged 18 years or younger; Concert is free with museum admission.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

TMITF on Modern Art Notes

Accumulations from Coast to Coast

Remember back in June, when I posted my review of the Andrea Zittel show at Regen Projects? I wrote about that crafty quarter for a quarter exchange. Much to my surprise, the cleaver quarter snatcher was none other than Tyler Green from Modern Art Notes. Read his post here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bambi and Thumper?

What do John Lautner, Bambi and Thumper have in common?

Here's a clip from YouTube, which features the Elrod Residence in Palm Springs (not to mention "Bambi" and "Thumper" -- hehe) from the 1971 James Bond classic Diamonds Are Forever: .

More to come, I promise...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bruce Busby at SMMoA (Project Room I)

Filter Tent #BMCD900, 2006
Nylon fabric, fiberglass poles, silicone rubber, 5 x 5 x 4 feet

You Won't Find These at REI...

Summer is in full swing. One of my guilty pleasures during these especially hot months, involves escaping the traffic jams, smog and tourists, and beginning plans for a quaint over night camping trip in the mountains. I am one of those people that is absolutely enthralled by California's pristine and seductive landscapes. For me, there's nothing more incredible than sleeping under the stars and waking up to the chirping of birds at 5:30 a.m. Okay, so maybe not the bird-chirping part, but you know what I mean. I know that for some of you, spending quality time in the great outdoors is just not your cup of tea. Well, for all you "urban" campers out there, head on over to SMMoM to see (and experience) Bruce Busby's Creativity Enhancement Shelters. In his first museum show, Bruce Busby: Super Faulty Reconfiguration at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, Busby offers you a sheltering and meditative experience that doesn't involve rubbing two sticks together.

Upon entering the gallery, you're greeted by several mesh, tent-inspired structures that capture your attention from first glance. Busby describes these works as "cutting-edge teepees," which is quite an understatement if you ask me. They're more than just cutting edge, they're not of this world! These metaphysical mesh and nylon structures range in size and adorn the floor, ceiling and wall spaces of the gallery. You can even crawl into one of them -- just take off your shoes, please. They seem to offer you a unique escape from the confines of the modern world. The works conceptually echo the architectural tradition of a sacred space, like a mosque, Buddhist temple or church.

Filter Tent #BMCD900 (Detail), 2006
Nylon fabric, fiberglass poles, silicone rubber 5 x 5 x 4 feet

Busby's work is based on the premise that "there are impurities and 'inhabitants' in our atmosphere that cause creative blockage, frustration, inefficiency, and confusion." These shelters are meant to serve as refuges from the turmoil of our daily lives, fine-tuning the various components of your inner-being back into spiritual equilibrium. Busby's ideas are validated by the notion that these shelters are not just museum objects, but are actually fully-functioning items that could be used on a day-to-day basis. The objects and its various components are also completely collapsible and transportable. Imagine your boss' reaction when you mention that you are starved for inspiration, so you begin popping up one of these Creativity Enhancement Shelters in your office or cubicle (I could have definitely used one of these in my work space a few months back, that's for sure). The genius of these objects lies not only with just viewing them in a museum setting, but also pulling them out of a controlled gallery environment and assigning it a true utilitarian duty.

CRIMP #JHQNY804 (Creativity Impairment Plume), 2004
Charcoal pencil on paper 6 x 6 feet

The structures are complemented by a series of large-scale drawings of clouds of contamination rising from the actual fault lines of the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas. The images are meant to serve as visual reminders of why such shelters are necessary, conveying the idea that both beauty and danger can be found in California's unique topography.

It's perfect timing that an exhibition like this is going on at the same time as the Lautner exhibition, as both impart strong messages of sheltering and nurturing the individual. My Lautner post should be up in a few days, at which point I'll elaborate further on how these two exhibitions are differnt, yet intersect in a very intriguing way.

The exhibition is on view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art from May 24th-August 9th, 2008; 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica; Open Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. - 8 pm; Closed Sundays, Mondays, and all legal holidays; (310) 586-6488; $5 suggested donation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

COMING SOON: John Lautner exhibition at the Hammer Museum

Concrete Ideas Made to Withstand the Test of Time

A comprehensive survey of John Lautner's work, including whimsical drawings, architectural renderings, and models will be on view at the Hammer Museum starting Sunday, July 13th. The exhibition entitled: Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner has been a work in progress for nearly a decade. Most of the objects will be coming from the Getty Research Institute, which acquired the Lautner archive back in 2007.

Lautner, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright for six years, was part of the first group of
Talisen Fellows who lived and worked with the quirky cape-wearing architect at his Spring Green, Wisconsin estate. After branching out on his own, Lautner created iconic structures which helped solidify Los Angeles' reputation as the best place to see modern architecture in the world.

Until very recently, Lautner's significant contributions to international style have been overshadowed by more prominent names such as Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler, Pierre Koenig and Raphael Soriano. I think that in large part, Lautner's structures have been interpreted as either too commercial (i.e. Googie Cafe) or too over-the-top (i.e. Aranga Residence in Acapulco). The diversity of his architectural endeavours exemplify not only an interest in the aesthetic merits of any one commission, but also an obsessive work ethic which involved mastering complicated engineering feats that have never been seen or attempted before.

Many of his works have been featured as backdrops for films. One of my favorite James Bond movies, Diamonds are Forever, features a scene which was filmed at Lautner's Elrod House in Palm Springs. I'll have more to report on his work after the opening, but in the meantime if you can't wait until this Sunday, perhaps this trailer for the upcoming Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner documentary will suppress that insatiable desire for anything and everything Lautner. Also, take a look at The John Lautner Foundation's website if you want to see some great examples of his work online.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Trompe l'oeil" or "trompe l'esprit?"

Roger Dickes at Sea and Space Explorations

I've always had a soft-spot for drawing. In most cases of artistic practice, a drawing almost always precedes a final work of art and assumes the function of a preparatory study or guideline for an artist. However, in recent years it has become more common to feature drawings as finished works of art in and of themselves, rather than just a meaningless doodle in a sketchbook. There is historical precedence of such activity dating back to the Renaissance, if not earlier. A concrete example, which comes to mind for me, is Albrecht Dürer's Stag Beetle (Currently on view as a part of the Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum).

During the time of Dürer, drawings were not really considered art objects, but merely study notes that were compiled by the artist to organize their thoughts, and at times used to re-work ideas related to composition and layout. If you take a good look at this specific drawing, it is clear that Dürer had spent a substantial amount of time rendering this object to the point of completion as an independent work of art. Roger Dickes' show, Firmament Av. at Sea and Space Explorations in Highland Park, reminded me that the tradition of drawing is sometimes more interesting and potent than a completed art object on panel or canvas (or any other medium for matter). The exhibition features three drawings and two sculptures that present an important juxtaposition between implied meaning and interpretive illusions.

Two of the drawings on display are Untitled (TV negation #4) and Untitled (TV negation #5). From afar, the white barrier paper on which the drawings are executed look completely blank. However, upon closer investigation of the works, images of a television screen slowly appear. Both emit a slight shimmery luminescence that captivates the viewer at first glance. The mark making mimics the static glow of white noise that you would encounter on an analog television if the cable went out. The lines are executed with the utmost delicacy and leaves the viewer in total awe. This is T.V. programming that you don't mind watching for long periods of time. In a way, it gives you a kind of TiVo experience where the viewer can stop what they're doing, leave for a moment and pick up where they left off or re-live the same experience again and again. If you happen to be on the east side of town, make time in your day to see this exhibition.

The exhibition is on view at Sea and Space Explorations from June 28th-July 13th, 2008; 4755 York Blvd., Highland Park; Open on Sun. 1-5 p.m. and by appointment; (323) 445-4015.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Andrea Zittel: Energetic Accumulators, and Token Exchanges

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue...?

Well, it was the last day of the show, but better late than never! I was thumbing through this week's L.A. Weekly and came across Peter Frank's recommendation ("The 'It' Parade") to see the Andrea Zittel show at Regen Projects II. At first when I entered the gallery I thought to myself, 'Oh brother, another found object show?' However, after wandering the space for a bit, I realized that it was much more than that -- and that's good news!

The exhibition was not so much about found objects (or useless junk, for that matter) as it was about the idea of exchange, based on the perceived value and mass accumulation of objects. The show consisted of various table and coffee table surfaces with multiple concave niches (kind of like the African game Mankala), each cut-out containing an object which Zittel placed inside. The installation, game-like in practice, involved having you participate in this creative experiment -- swap out any one object for another so long as you replace it with something of equal value. The objects traded ranged from matchbooks to CDs to gum wrappers to dollar bills to cigarettes, and so on... It took me a while to decide what to swap, especially because I came completely unprepared to participate in something like this. There was one that I found to be quite creative. Someone had traded a U.S. quarter for another one. Next to the quarter was a note which commented:

"I exchanged an Idaho quarter for a Massachusetts quarter. They are worth the same, but maybe not to everyone."

The longer I stared at all the other second-hand trinkets, the more intimidated I was to out do the others. I flipped through my trusty notebook to see if I had something to pass off and 'lo and behold,' it came to me. I had ripped out the actual Peter Frank review from the L.A. Weekly and stuffed it into my note. I traded the torn review for a finely-knotted piece of string. On the note, I wrote:

"Art reviews and priceless."

Take that Idaho quarter person! What can I say, I'm a generous guy!

In any case, the exhibition did succeed in making me think twice about not only my own selection, but also my critical view of other people and their selections. There is something to be said about how we perceive value, as well as the natural tendency of accumulation on surfaces. One thing is for sure, I'll definitely be thinking twice about where I place my keys, cell phone and spare change when I get home.

This exhibition is on view at Regen Projects II from May 24-June 28, 2008; 9016 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood; May 24 – June 28, 2008, Open Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; (310) 276-5424; Free.