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.