Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Exhibitions: From the Generic to the Quirky

One of the images from the new show Windshield Perspective at the A+D Museum.Tom Bonner, Dog & Cat.Courtesy A+D Museum.

By Michael Webb

It’s hard to keep up with Pacific Standard Time, the flurry of exhibitions sponsored by the Getty in local museums that explore LA’s architectural culture. Overdrive, the Getty’s own historical survey, was reviewed a few weeks ago, and two upcoming exhibitions, The Presence of the Past, opening at LACMA on June 9, and A New Sculpturalism opening at MOCA on June 16 are eagerly anticipated. Two smaller shows also deserve attention.

The A+D Museum is showing Windshield Perspective through July 9. It’s a gallery-sized variant on Ed Rusha’s fold-out book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, which focuses on a few blocks of Beverly Boulevard, from Normandie to Virgil. Both stretches are generic and bland, and Ruscha made a virtue of that ordinariness, ignoring the legendary clubs, restaurants and bars that lurked behind these modest facades. In contrast, this stretch of Beverly attracts poor immigrants rather than celebrities, and the curators have traced the owners of different properties back to 1925, constructing a slice of urban history. It’s a story of hard work versus play; first-generation arrivals rather than those who have already achieved success. The installation brings the people and the structures to life, encouraging blasé Angelenos to look through their windshields at something more than traffic. And, though these buildings are humble, they have a lot more character than those that line Wilshire, from San Vicente to Crescent. In prosperous Beverly Hills, the commercial architecture is truly banal.

An exhibition at the MAK Center explores the convergence of architecture and art in the 1970s. Morphosis Venice III House Framing Model 1980-82 Wood model 24 x 12 x 24 inches © Morphosis (Thom Mayne, Michael Rotondi). Photo by Tom Bonner.

The MAK Center is presenting Everything Loose Will Land through August 4, and the intimate rooms of the Schindler House provide an ideal frame for this cabinet of curiosities from 1970s LA. The title refers to Frank Lloyd Wright’s disparaging comment about Southern California, and curator Sylvia Lavin has unearthed a trove of eccentric experiments. A 1969 video of Robert Smithson, seemingly stoned out of his mind, arguing with fellow earth artist (and wife) Nancy Holt, is worth the price of admission. This was the era of happenings, the beginnings of feminism, the Age of Aquarius turned sour. Most rewarding are the sketches: Craig Hodgett’s for Ecotopia, Terry Schoonhoven’s for the now faded murals of the LA Fine Arts Squad, and a collaboration between Frank Gehry and Richard Serra. Take time, look closely, and you’ll discover the seeds of creativity that have flowered and extended their reach world-wide.

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