Getty, Gehry and Carl Andre

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Frank Gehry, Model of Sirmai-Peterson Residence in Thousand Oaks, CA (1983-1988)
Courtesy of the Getty Research Institute © Frank O. Gehry

It probably wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that no architect has made as strong of an impact on Los Angeles as Frank Gehry. Dozens of his projects here –– both large and small –– have been argued over, wondered about, and ultimately admired. Last week's announcement that the Getty Research Institute has acquired an archive of work by Frank Gehry came as a special acknowledgment of his unique contribution to our city's architectural history.

(L) Frank Gehry, Frederick R. Weisman Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Courtesy of LACMA and Gehry Partners LLP
Photo by Don F. Wong
(R) Frank Gehry, Nationale-Nederlanden Building in Prague, Czech Republic
Courtesy of LACMA and Gehry Partners LLP

It's simply amazing how prolific and unstoppable Gehry has been in his career, a career that spans over five decades. The Getty chose to acquire a part of the archive that covers roughly the first three decades of his career, from 1954 to 1988. This translates roughly into 1,000 sketches, 120,000 working drawings, 100,000 slides, plus hundreds of boxes of records. There are also 168 working models and 112 presentation models. One wonders how any museum could handle the perseveration and study of such an overwhelming amount of material and information. We should be thankful to the Getty for their vision. Hopefully one day, the Getty Research Institute will figure out a way to open their storage facility for the public to see and enjoy the treasure trove of material there.

"Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010"
at MOCA Geffen Contemporary
Photo by Edward Goldman

On the very day the Getty announced the acquisition of the Gehry archives, the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA held a press opening for its major Carl Andre exhibition Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010. I've seen many great exhibitions in this building, which used to be a city garage before Frank Gehry transformed it into a visionary museum space in 1983. There is an interesting tension and lively dialogue now at the Geffen between Gehry's industrial architecture and Carl Andre's exquisitely austere geometric sculptures, often composed of such basic materials as bricks and 2x4s.

"Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010"
at MOCA Geffen Contemporary
Photo by Edward Goldman

I have to confess that in my first encounter with his sculptures decades ago, I couldn't make sense of them. But after a while, his art with its bricks –– figuratively speaking –– hit me over the head. And I'm grateful to Carl Andre for challenging me and opening my mind.

"Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010"
at MOCA Geffen Contemporary
Photo by Edward Goldman

Can you imagine being in a museum and intentionally stepping on the artwork spread across the floor? Believe it or not –– Carl Andre wants us to walk across his monumental sculpture comprised of hundreds of metal plates. It's a unique way to experience the physical and aesthetic essence of his art. But in spite of its undeniable strength and toughness, these metal plates are vulnerable to a gentle touch from our bare hands. Yes, sweat and moisture from our hands leave difficult to remove imprints on metal surfaces. So, we are welcome to walk across the sculpture as long as we leave our shoes on.

Actors' Gang at CCI Tehachapi
Courtesy of Arts in Corrections and Peter Merts Photography
Photo by Peter Merts

If you believe in the power of art to educate and inspire, you'll want to read the article in yesterday's New York Times titled "Creating Beauty Behind Bars." It's about the new initiative by the State of California to bring the arts –– including painting, improvisational theater, graphic novels, and songwriting –– to all 35 of the state's adult prisons. According to Mary Butler, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California, "arts classes alone do not change criminal thinking or behavior but they can change behavior within a prison". One of the inmates serving a life sentence in San Quentin says that the art project has helped him understand "why things bug [him] and why [he] ended up [there]."

(T) Actors' Gang at CCI Tehachapi
(B) Community-based art at California Institute for Women, December 2016
Both courtesy of Arts in Corrections and Peter Merts Photography
Photos by Peter Merts

"In a political climate in which federal arts agencies are under siege, California has allocated $6 million annually for the Arts in Corrections program, a figure set to rise to $8 million next year."



Benjamin Gottlieb