5 design things to do this week

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This week: protect democracy in the legacy of Thomas Mann; get schooled by masters of hand-painted signs; save money on beautiful art books; imagine wearing sculpture as adornment; and see Tom Hanks do Shakespeare.

The JR Davidson designed 1942 Thomas Mann House was purchased in 2016 by the German Government to serve as a residence for artists and intellectuals and a cultural center for debate. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

1)  Thomas Mann House: “The Struggle for Democracy” Conference

After fleeing Nazi Germany to Switzerland in 1933, Nobel laureate Thomas Mann came to the United States in 1939. He began looking to build a house in Pacific Palisades, where fellow exiled German artists, writers, filmmakers and designers lived.  From these circles, he considered Richard Neutra for his architect, but instead chose architect JR Davidson (1889-1997) whose work Mann considered a more gemütlich or pleasant and cheerful version of Modernism.  Built in 1941, the 5,000-square-foot home was nearly torn down until the German government stepped in and purchased it in 2016. Their plan was to convert the home into a residence for artists and intellectuals, and a cultural center for debate over major trans-Atlantic issues, much like its Pacific Palisades neighbor Villa Aurora, where in his day Mann and his fellow expats congregated and shared ideas.

Eighty-five years ago, at the end of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism, Mann wrote, “Throughout the world it has become precarious to take democracy for granted.“  And here we are today, with the realization that democracy is vulnerable now a shared experience on both sides of the Atlantic.  The inaugural conference “The Struggle for Democracy” will open a discussion about how to maintain and renew democracy in Germany and the United States.  Panels include Diversity and the Search for Common Ground, Status panic: Fear and the Decline of Democracy, and Expulsions: Shifting Borders of Democracy.  Nikolai Blaumer, Program Director Thomas Mann House, said the conference “will will set the stage for all the study and work to come.”

When: Tuesday, June 19, 10 am – 3 pm.  You can see a schedule of panels here.

Where: Harold M. Williams Auditorium, The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Tickets: Free.  To attend please respond to conference@vatmh.org

Trader Joe’s uses hand-painted signs to give a local feel to their stores.  Ralph ‘ Doc’ Guthrie has trained several of the artists who paint the signs in Los Angeles.(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

2) Signs of Los Angeles: A Conversation on Sign-Painting and the City

Before the digital age, large format commercial signs were made with a different sort of low-tech digits: by hand. Angelenos have witnessed the changes in our urban landscape, as hand-painting has given way to digital design and printing.  You can join legendary sign-painter and teacher Doc Guthrie and artist Michael C. McMillen as they remember a time when commercial signs were hand-painted and the city was like a large canvas. 

Both artists studied in the Sign Graphics program at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, a program which has been around since 1924.  Guthrie graduated in 1974, and then student became teacher and taught McMillen in 2000.  One student writes, “Doc is a professional sign painter and knows a lot about the industry.  Not only will you learn sign painting, you will learn a lot about life.” Artist Tucker Neel (Otis Institute, Asst. Profession / MFA Graphic Design) will facilitate a discussion between Guthrie and McMillen about the history and practice of sign painting, and its remarkable resurgence.

When: Wednesday, June 20, 6:30 – 9 pm

Where: Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1717 East 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

Tickets: Free. More information here.

David Hockney poses with the SUMO book of his work, published by TASCHEN in 2017 to coincide with the artist’s 80th birthday celebrations.  You probably won’t find this book on sale, but find any other title that’s been on display or slightly damaged and can really save a lot. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

3) TASCHEN Book Sale

Known for superior production quality across all their publications and the visual masterpiece of the ‘SUMO’ book, art book publisher TASCHEN has made a singular name for themselves in the high-end publishing world.  This week, Thursday through Sunday you can save 25-75% on display and slightly damaged books across their entire catalogue, both in store and online.

While saving is great, if you don’t mind paying full price, Oliver Wainwright’s new book Inside North Korea comes out on June 22 and offers an “architectural journey behind closed doors in the world’s most secretive country.” You can listen to DnA’s interview with Wainwright here as he ascribes the bright colors of North Korean architecture to “an attempt to infantilize the people given that the standard of living is so poor.”

When: Thursday-Sunday, June 21-24

Where: TASCHEN Store Beverly Hills, 354 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 and TASCHEN Los Angeles, 8070 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Tickets: Free

The ‘Portable Art Project’ began with an invitation to Louise Bourgeois, who in 2008 conceived different spiral-like precious metal cuffs. Now, more than a dozen artists participate. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

4)  Public opening: Portable Art Project by Celia Forner

The body serves as a living gallery for these sculptures-cum-adornments. Organized by Celia Forner, the Portable Art Project started with sculptor Louise Bourgeois‘ spiral-like precious metal cuffs and now includes over a dozen artists, including Santa Monica and Venice-based John Baldessari.  The pieces are crafted from an array of materials, ranging from traditional gold and silver with precious and semi-precious gems, to enamel, aluminum, bronze, and iron.

When: Saturday, June 23, 6 – 9 pm.  The exhibition will be on view through August 12.

Where: Hauser & Wirth, 901 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Tickets: Free. More information here.

Tom Hanks plays the rascal John Falstaff in an intimate outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV on the campus of the West Los Angeles VA. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

5) Tom Hanks in Henry the IV

Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan creates his version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV deep in a grove at the VA in Westwood.  With terrific costumes and striking, if elemental, sets, the production stars Tom Hanks in his Los Angeles stage debut as the “lovable liar” John Falstaff.  “A story about fathers and sons, growing up and growing old, honor and rascals, Henry IV is an evening of Shakespeare’s greatest comedy and most touching drama.”  The minimalist open-air theater is small and intimate and employs veterans for the season.  Reviews for Hanks have been stellar, giving us one more reason to love this acting icon and steadfast public radio supporter.

When: Through July 1

Where: Japanese Garden on the West Los Angeles VA Campus, Patton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Tickets: $49-$500.  You can get tickets here.