Mid-20th century architecture has gained a huge following in L.A. and the uncomplicated glass-walled houses designed by Richard Neutra are well-known, if only through photographs. But how to get inside of them?
This month is a good time to visit the house that Neutra designed for himself, which overlooks Silverlake reservoir, thanks to the intervention of French artist Xavier Veilhan. (VEYON) The house is now owned by the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation under the stewardship of the College of Environmental Design. Veilhan and his family lived in Neutra’s house for the past month. During that time, Veilhan created a number of sculptures and installation pieces that have to do with Neutra’s life, his family and his architecture. For instance, a giant black silhouette of Neutra’s profile stands in front of the house like a billboard. A black metal flag is mounted on the roof, a reference to the anarchistic L.A. punk band, because Veilhan felt Neutra’s disciplined nature belied his iconoclastic and rebellious origins. Inside the house, Veilhan suspended a mobile of white gold spheres that reflect the gorgeous light pouring through the large windows. Various rooms contain Veilhan’s black sculptures, a color that signifies uncluttered modernist aspirations, which prick our curiosity to learn more about Neutra the man, as well as the architect. For instance, Neutra removed the curved legs from the beloved grand piano that his wife Dione had inherited from her father and replaced them with chrome tubes more in keeping with the reductive sensibility of the house. By now, the tubes were discolored and rusted so Veilhan had them re-chromed for this project. For help pay for further restoration of the VDL house, Veilhan will donate the proceeds from the sales of his sculptures.
In 2009, Veilhan installed his work in the Palace of Versailles. Now he plans future interventions of this sort in other modernist sites such as Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseilles. He calls them Architectones, a title meant to pay homage to the Suprematist philosophy of Kasimir Malevich. When Nicolas Godin of the French band Air heard of this project, he became involved and composed music for this installation that incorporates the speech of Neutra.
The show was organized by architect Francois Perrin, who arranged a very interesting show in 2004, Yves Klein Air Architecture, at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in the Schindler House on Kings Road.
Neutra House exterior
The VDL Research house, located at 2300 Silverlake Blvd., was built by Neutra in 1932. His three sons were raised there and he designed many more houses in the Silverlake neighborhood. The house burned down but was rebuilt by Neutra with his son Dion Neutra in 1964. The 1939 garden home in the rear is original.
During the exhibition, on view through September 16, the house has extended viewing hours: Thursday and Friday, 3 to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm. A suggested donation of $10 will go to further restore this important landmark. For more information, go to www.neutra-vdl.org or Veilhan.net.