Overdrive at the Getty and Stephen Prina at LACMA
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With "Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990," the Getty Museum and Research Institute launch their next round of PST exhibitions. The show at the Getty itself, on view through July 21, thoroughly and somewhat surprisingly documents this city's unique consciousness of the future and its place in that time frame. From Disneyland to Disney Hall, we see a leitmotif of innovation in the built environment, we see that L.A. did not happen by accident but by intention and that other cities around the world came here to take notes and implement similar decisions.
We also see the significance of pioneer modern architects in exhibitions at other museums around the city. The Viennese R.M.Schindler is explored in an completely unpredictable yet enticing way at LACMA with an exhibition by L.A.-based conceptual artist Stephen Prina, "As He Remembered It."
The vast third floor gallery of BCAM is startling with bookshelves, beds, sofas, closets, bathrooms, tables and other examples of built-in furniture designed by Schindler, all lined up on a grid but painted bright pink. Actually, the color is Pantone Honeysuckle, 2011 Color of the Year.
The work was inspired by Prina's memory of a mid-1980's evening when he was with his friend and fellow conceptual artist Christopher Williams and they saw a pink object in a store's window that, upon closer inspection, proved to be a built-in desk by Schindler, ripped from its original location. That anachronistic object eventually prompted the re-creation of the built-in's from two small Schindler houses in L.A., neither still standing, for Hilaire Harris and for Mrs. George (Rose) Harris.
This show was created in 2011 for Secession, an exhibition space in Vienna. Prina asked architects Escher/Gunewardena for help sending 3-D drawings of the furniture based on the original Schindler plans and photographs to be constructed of poplar plywood. Prina and an assistant painted them gray or green, as they would have been in the houses, then slapped on a rough top coat of Honeysuckle.
One wouldn't think that the rigorous intelligence of Prina, a professor at Harvard, could conjure the Funny Face film anthem, "Think Pink!" But it did. The Pantone company issued this description of the color: "Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become a part of everyday life." Who could resist?
In part, Prina chose the color after learning that, long after Schindler's death in 1953, his wife Pauline Schindler lived in half of the house that her husband designed for them on King's Road until her death in 1977. And she had her quarters painted pink. Viennese modernism, iconic film about fashion and photography, L.A. eccentricity and independence, these kaleidoscopic influences and others filtered through Prina's memory and now filter through ours. As Thomas Lawson writes in the pink-covered catalog: "For the work is in the translation, the gap into which meaning collapses as we chase it down."
The LACMA show has been expanded by curator Jarrett Gregory. There are other earlier works by Prina in the show. (In an adjacent gallery, there is a photograph by him of the Margo Leavin Gallery illuminated by a Dan Flavin fluorescent floor fixture that shines pink and yellow.)
In addition, part of this exhibition takes place in the Bruce Goff-designed Pavilion for Japanese Art. Banners of painted paper interfere with the translucency of the exhibition design while industrial age scholar's rocks made from colored glass, coal, and cement are set about here and there. While looking at Prina's involvement with Goff, we are reminded once again of the fact that extraordinary works of architecture are everywhere in L.A. (and not to forget the breathtaking Japanese scrolls and screens on view there like Jellyfish and Moon.) Prina made a film in Goff's 1947 Ford House. The Way He Always Wanted It II will be shown on April 27. Prina, who is also a composer, recognized that Goff, too, had been an aspiring composer. Prina's original composition of live music will be held in the Goff building on June 22. The show closes August 4. Go to LACMA.org for more information.
Banner image: Stephen Prino, "As He Remembered It," 2011