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.