Banner photo credit: Frank Gehry, "Untitled (Los Angeles IV)," 2012-13. © Frank Gehry. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Benjamin Lee Ritchie Handler.
Frank Gehry is best known in L.A. for designing Disney Hall but that extraordinary building is the result of decades of experimental efforts, one of which was Rebecca’s restaurant in Venice, which opened in 1983. He designed the interior spaces and added work by artist friends like Ed Moses and Peter Alexander. Chef Bruce Marder was offering high-end Mexican seafood and Gehry created lighting in the shapes of sea creatures: crocodiles, fish and a massive chandelier in the shape of a octopus. The fish shapes, inspired by his childhood memory of his grandmother keeping a fish in the bathtub before cooking it, has continued to make its influence felt in many of his buildings.
Now, for the first time since Rebecca’s, Gehry returned to the theme of fish lamps, which are on view at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills through Feb. 14 and at Gagosian Gallery in Paris through March 9. Constructed of wire armatures covered in scales made from Color-Core formica, the fish appear to wriggle and curl on the walls and floor, atop wood pedestals, and even hang from the ceiling as a chandelier. Between three and seven feet long, they glow with soft amber light in the dimmed gallery. Simply delightful, they reveal Gehry’s humor, irreverence and willingness to always try something new. Or, in this case, return to some idea from the past and reexamine it afresh.
I was particularly keen to see the show since I was a regular at Rebecca’s, drinking many a shot of tequila under the huge red octopus chandelier. Then the restaurant closed and the fixtures went to auction in 1998. My husband and I happened into Santa Monica Auctions and left an absentee bid for the giant octopus that had lent such a rosy glow to so many evenings. It now hangs in my house and has continued to inspire many a party. My personal view is that the rounded form, the overlapping cut glass crystals that are hung on the wire armature, the curving, organic shapes, all offer insight into the origins of the design for Gehry’s game-changing museum in Bilbao and eventually Disney Hall.
The sculptural impact of such design in fish lamps, the octopus chandelier or Gehry’s many buildings will be addressed in an upcoming exhibition organized by Christopher Mount for MOCA: A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California opening June 2, a participant in the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time 2, Modern Architecture in L.A.
Frank Gehry, "Untitled (Los Angeles II)," 2012-13. © Frank Gehry. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Benjamin Lee Ritchie Handler.
Frank Gehry, "Untitled (Los Angeles IV)," 2012-13. © Frank Gehry. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Benjamin Lee Ritchie Handler.