This is the third installment of our Pacific Standard Time Presents diary, tracking modern architecture happenings all over the city. Check out our previous entries:
High temperatures might be bad for art, but they're great for museums. The past week's blistering heat wave drove many an Angeleno into the air-conditioned respite of their local cultural institution — I spotted Getty curator Christopher Alexander leading a particularly large tour through “Overdrive” on a steamy Saturday. Even when it's not serving as an escape from the heat, the show is an excellent destination, and a few hours wandering the exhibition filled me with a renewed sense of civic pride. In fact, I had a hard time seeing the “thoroughgoing urban mess” as described by one bitter East Coast reviewer in his description of the show (or maybe L.A. in general?) last week.
On another night, it was the promise of warm spring air — and not a lick of air conditioning — that packed the Schindler House for the MAK Center's “Everything Loose Will Land” opening. The al fresco vibe extended to the art: Sylvia Lavin — in a snappy molecular-looking statement necklace — admitted that she rather enjoyed curating an exhibition outside of a traditional museum, even though mounting a show in the drafty duplex is “pretty much like installing an exhibition outdoors.”
That's likely why the show's installation — designed by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee's firm — is encased in space-age plexiglas bubbles, providing extra protection from the elements for the rare and fragile ephemera. And what ephemera it is! The show tracks the intersection between art and experimental architecture in the 1970's, a reminder that radical design ideas didn't — and shouldn't — always originate from a bland computer rendering.
Speaking of computers, a highlight of the show was out the courtyard, where kids (and a few adults) built their own experimental structures with a cardboard 3D building block invented by Jef Raskin, the late Apple interface designer who helped launch the Macintosh. His daughter, Aviva Raskin, represented at the opening.
As attendees pored over sketches of fanciful artist studios designed by the L.A. School, it was a painful reminder of the looming unresolved situation at MOCA. More than one attendee discussed signing a new petition launched by architect Arshia Mahmoodi that pleads with MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch to “rid the atmosphere of uncertainty” after reports that there is not enough money to install its scheduled show on L.A. architecture this summer.
The petition isn't the most eloquent take on the MOCA mess — it often lapses into nearly indecipherable architect dialect that even I had a hard time translating. And shouldn't it really have been a Kickstarter? Or a petition that just asks Eli Broad to front the cash? But it does outline a pretty serious point: The fact that the museum has not responded publicly shows the world that L.A. doesn't take its architecture seriously.
As of today, there are 111 supporters of the petition, and a dozen articles by art critics, but there's still no statement from the museum. MOCA, are you listening? Update: MOCA finally issued a statement on Friday, May 17: “MOCA will present its exhibition on contemporary architecture from Southern California, A New Sculpturalism, opening June 16, 2013 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA as part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. The museum is excited to bring the architecture community in Los Angeles together in recognition of the world-class architecture that has been and continues to be conceived in the city by some of the most renowned and emerging firms and practitioners working today.”
Across town, another museum gleefully embraced the city's architectural community as the A+D Museum threw a glitzy, jet-setting gala for its annual fundraiser. PSTP-featured architects and designers including Lorcan O'Herhily, Frederick Fisher, and April Greiman and Michael Rotundi designed carry-on bags that were marched down the runway by models in Pan Am-aspirational flight attendant garb.
Of all the designers' interpretations, my favorite had to be Steven Ehrlich's cheeky Bag-ette (I'd definitely carry that bag). Next, A+D turns its attention to their PSTP show “Windshield Perspective” curated by Greg Goldin, which opens tonight.
If you've encountered aliens bowling at Shatto Lanes or a choir of very pregnant woman singing at an onion-shaped church, you've already had a taste of Machine Project's “Field Guide to L.A. Architecture,” 30 projects taking place all over the city. This Sunday, for example, artist Sara Roberts will organize a game underneath one of Glendale's strangest Modern buildings.
Last week I got a preview with director Mark Allen and series producer Bennett Williamson, and among the upcoming highlights are a dip into Frank Gehry's aquarium and an unforgettable urban adventure with Whitney Houston. Yes, for real.
With only some of the events announced, and a few surprises still to be unveiled, I'd recommend signing up for updates directly from Machine Project. And keeping your eyes peeled for Whitney.
Also this Sunday, Pasadena bucks its reputation as the Land of Craftsmans for a tour of local Modernist gems. And next week, there's a tour with the Center of Land Use Interpretation featuring “invisible architecture” — trailers on construction sites. On Wednesday, I'll be covering the first panel in the “Extreme Ideas” series sponsored by UCLA's Architecture and Urban Design school. I hope to see you and your extreme ideas there.
Until then… Stay cool.