GRANT MUDFORD AT ROSAMUND FELSEN GALLERY
When a few years ago the Guggenheim Museum in New York staged its extravaganza "The Art of the Motorcycle" it became the museum's biggest blockbuster. Frank Gehry designed an intoxicatingly fluid installation wrapped in shiny mirrors. Witnesses described hordes of leather-clad bikers invading the elegant spiral ramp of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. Everyone, from Fifth Avenue matrons to horny New Jersey schoolboys, wanted to see it.
It's difficult not to compare that show with the recently opened exhibition on car design at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary. Titled "Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays", it deals with works by the American car designer who is currently Vice President of Global Design at Ford Motor Company. Previous to that he came up with his most famous design, the new Volkswagen Beetle. I wonder, when you see it on the street, are you, like me, tempted to give it a friendly hug, and maybe even a little squeeze on its rear bumper?
The exhibition, smartly installed in the museum space which used to be a police car garage, draws connections between the worlds of fashion, architecture and industrial design. The only problem with this exhibition is that all its shiny cars, dressed in their Sunday best, behave as if they're at a church picnic and afraid to go over the speed limit. It's been a long time since industrial design became a legit subject for art museums. Today we expect more from such an exhibition than just the presence of beautiful objects. We want to be intrigued by new ideas about the cultural and artistic connections between the world of art and design. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. Though to be fair, I want to praise the very cool catalogue with its very hip design that makes the cars jump off the pages. If only the exhibition itself had such vitality.
I've been a fan of the work of Los Angeles architectural photographer Grant Mudford for close to two decades. For a travelling exhibition on the architecture of Louis Kahn, Mudford was commissioned to go around the world to photograph the iconic buildings of this American architect. The resulting black and white photographs combined the objectivity of a document with their own understated artistic beauty.
The artist's most recent exhibition at Rosamund Felsen Gallery is comprised mostly of large color photographs of the Disney Concert Hall under construction. It's difficult to believe that unfinished structures can be so glamorous, mysterious and poetic. What a pity that all this industrial beauty and disarray will soon disappear from view when the building is completed. With remarkable compositional skill, Mudford orchestrates the chaos of the construction site into images capable of evoking the sound of a church organ playing Bach or a full orchestra playing Mozart.
For more information:
"Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays"
November 17, 2002 - March 9, 2003
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel. (213) 621-2766
November 23, 2002 - January 4, 2003
Rosamund Felsen Gallery
2525 Michigan Avenue
Bergamot Station, B4
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Tel. (310) 828-8488