Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Neutra

At Year’s End

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Scotland_Sunset2
My inbox is filled with year-end lists and 2014 top ten rankings and rants. Should I add to that clutter? In a year that was filled with accomplishments for the artists and the gallery, it’s at least time to take a moment and make note of some things. I was reminded of the winter ritual by my friend Jennifer Lee’s photo.

Starting with the gallery’s blog, it’s amazing to see just how far-reaching the digital world has taken us. As I wrote in a previous blog post, I wonder: How does mobile computing affect the way that the public interacts with museum shows? How does the rise of corporate-owned art news aggregators affect the perception of art and the way that people see exhibitions? When people “share” art on social media, is that an effective way to communicate? Which media translate the best in the new digital age?

This blog was viewed in 102 different countries in just the past year. Most of our visitors were from the U.S., but the U.K. and France were not far behind. But, what did the viewers comment on the most? A post titled “The Two Californias”, in which I talked about the oft-cited but misunderstood division between the northern and southern regions of the state. The post was popular, for a while. But, an older post, about the mid-century architecture of the Pasadena area and Richard Neutra, continues to draw an on-line audience.

All told, over 16,000 people viewed the blog! Among the things they read about: Cheryl Ann Thomas and her exhibits and museum acquisitions, the incredibly intricate and highly humorous work of Adrian Saxe, and the continued efforts of the gallery on behalf of the Estate of Craig Kauffman. We’ve had a full year and are ready to turn the page. Please keep following us!

 

Written by Frank Lloyd

December 31, 2014 at 11:08 pm

What is California Design?

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CHM041Yesterday, a journalist asked me “What is California Design?” My response was to send her the first chapter of Wendy Kaplan’s excellent essay in the LACMA publication, “Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965.” Kaplan’s book (now in its fourth printing!) accompanies the touring exhibition which debuted at LACMA last year, and is set to open in Tokyo in March.

But as I thought about the question of definition, I realized Blog 052that California Design has some strong antecedents and a marvelous mix of influences. In fact, Kaplan said it best herself when she wrote that, when speaking about California Design, scholars are “referring not to a single aesthetic but to a loose, albeit clearly recognizable, group of ideas.”[1] It’s a movement that was fed by European émigrés, including architects Schindler and Neutra, as well as Marguerite Wildenhain and the Natzlers in ceramics. Another component was the modern craft movement, which emphasizes the connection to the hand and the recognition of the beauty of every-day objects, when imbued with a refined aesthetic. Being on the edge of the Pacific Rim, California also absorbed the aesthetic and philosophy of Asian culture in the post-WWII environment. And certainly, most accounts include the open and unbounded atmosphere for expression on the West Coast, not to mention the inviting climate.

Blog 054European immigration to California came in two primary waves, the first beginning in the late teens and 1920s and the second consisting of war-time refugees, fleeing the Nazis. R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra were both early émigrés, who found in California an accommodating climate and a clientele interested in their theories of indoor/outdoor living and the use of modern materials such as steel and glass. The conditions of California were particularly amenable to the casual outdoor living promoted by these transplanted Modernists, who worked to tailor their visions to the desires of Californians.

These modern homes needed to be filled with the CHM030furniture and objects of everyday life, and the modern craft movements had a marked influence in this regard. Designers and artists strove to make their work accessible to the middle class, giving rise to the designer-craftsman. In her volume, Kaplan writes that “The concept of the designer-craftsman, though not unique to California, was most successfully realized there, particularly in ceramics.”[2] Ceramists such as Harrison McIntosh embodied the idea that everyday items can be imbued with elegance and dignity, and that using these well-designed objects adds enjoyment to one’s daily life. Influenced by the Bauhaus-educated Marguerite Wildenhain, who fled the Nazis in 1940, McIntosh focused on simple and graceful silhouettes for practical usage.

CHM047 copyOpenness to new ideas is no doubt one of most important factors in the development of the style that came to be known as California Modern Design. A willingness to try new things led to an exciting synthesis of influences. California’s proximity to Asia led to heightened interest in the aesthetic and philosophy of Asian culture after the Second World War. Furniture and the decorative arts in particular were influenced by Pan-Asian motifs.

Thus, the question “What is California Design?” is not one that can be answered simply. California Design, like California itself, reflects the complex set of factors that shaped a region during the middle of the 20th century.


[1] Kaplan, Wendy, Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965, (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and MIT Press, 2011), 33.

[2] Ibid., 39.

Scotland Sky, New Year

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Scotland Sky2

Those who follow my blog might remember my love of landscape photos. It’s something that I share with Jennifer Lee, our Scottish ceramist who lives in London. Jennifer sent a wondrous picture of the Scottish sky, with a stark silhouette of a tree—a reminder of winter. It’s a picture of the year’s passage.

2012 was filled with accomplishment for the gallery. It’s also been a year of amazing statistics for the blog. As I’ve been noting lately, the gallery has a truly international presence, a fact borne out by the global reach of the blog. In the past year, the blog has been viewed in 114 countries! People seem to be reading quite of few of the 163 blog posts.

The world-wide visitors came searching, mostly for Peter Voulkos, Craig Kauffman, Larry Bell, Gustavo Pérez, and Richard Neutra. While that might seem eclectic, it represents the scope of the gallery and the blog: a concentration of interest in the major artists that emerged on the West Coast during the post-WWII era, and a complementary interest in international ceramics as well as architecture. The posts that were viewed the most times in 2012:

1 Craig Kauffman, 1932-2010

2 Richard Neutra: The Perkins House

3 Peter Voulkos: Words from Irving Blum

4 Monte Factor, 1917—2011

5 Peter Voulkos: On Improvisation

I’m looking forward to the New Year, and want to thank everyone for reading!

Greatest Hits

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O.K., I know this: my little blog is not even remotely close to the Huffington Post.  HuffPo is well known as the most popular news site in the Blogosphere.  But site statistics are somewhat addictive for bloggers.  There’s a temptation (at least for me) to check and see if anyone’s reading your posts. Those stats reveal a lot about the readers, too. I’m amazed to find out that there are some clear favorites from the past couple of years since this tiny blog started in November, 2008. There’s also a clear winner in these statistics: more people want to read about Peter Voulkos than any other subject—by far.

For those who want to review the Top Ten ­Posts of my past two years, here are the links:

Artists: On Peter Voulkos

Craig Kauffman, 1932-2010

Monte Factor: L.A. Collector

Richard Neutra: The Perkins House

Ken Price: On Meaning

John Mason: Massive Work

Peter Voulkos: Words from Irving Blum

Peter Voulkos: A Poster

John Mason: Spear Form

Ed Moses: On Painting

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 12, 2010 at 1:08 am

Richard Neutra: The Perkins House

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When I was a teenage student, I took a test called the Kuder Interest Inventory.  I’m sure it was part of the counseling program for college-bound kids in South Pasadena, where I grew up.  I scored in the 98th percentile for architecture, which wasn’t a surprise—then, or now. So, what was the next step?  “Find opportunities to develop skills here and ask people what they like about their work,” the counselors told me.

I followed up right away.  Fortunately, the architectural offices of Whitney R. Smith were right next to the Junior High School. I boldly called and asked for an appointment. To his credit, Whitney Smith kindly scheduled a time for me (and two like-minded friends) to come to his design studio and office complex. We toured the drafting rooms, saw architectural models, and learned about new building materials—all from one of the most respected architects in the region.  The office still stands, a landmark of mid-century modern building design.

But an even greater opportunity awaited me.  At South Pasadena High School, I was enrolled in drawing, painting and art history classes with a mentor, Jack Dalton.  Once Mr. Dalton learned of my interest in architecture, he arranged for me to go to a small house designed for his colleague, the art historian and critic Constance Perkins.  We drove to the San Rafael Hills, and ascended mid-way up Poppy Peak Drive to the Perkins House, designed by Richard Neutra.

I had never seen such a home, and still remember climbing the stairs and entering the small but perfectly composed rooms.  Ms. Perkins explained that all of the cabinetry was built for her height and reach, and that Neutra had measured her library of books. These were new concepts for me.  For anyone wanting to learn about modern architecture, that day was inspiring—especially to look out from the living area to the San Gabriel mountains, through the famous glass corner, over the fish pond.

I still drive up Poppy Peak, and stop to admire the simplicity and perfection of a small jewel of modern residential architecture.  The impression of that day has never diminished, and I’ve toured other Neutra homes when they are open.  I often drive by the Research House in the Silverlake area, as well as the other houses on Neutra Place nearby. It’s a constant reminder of the extraordinary legacy of residential design in Los Angeles.

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 19, 2009 at 10:55 pm