It could've been the year-round sunshine, or maybe the distance from the rest of the country, or even the major role the state played in wartime technological developments that could be used for good during peace time. In any case, after World War II, California was bursting with visionaries like nowhere else. Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, and Sam Maloof, just to name a few, were setting the standard for mid-century design and architecture that could only be born in the Golden State. Characterized by experimentation, technological innovation, color, cultural cross-breeding, and a certain sense of optimism, their work ushered in a new modern way of living that slowly trickled eastward to shape a new American dream.
Pacific Standard Time, the epic collaboration of more than 60 Southern California institutions, celebrates the spirit and identity of the region's art. ARTINFO highlights the top must-see exhibitions of the West Coast architecture and design vanguard.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 323-857-6000) presents the perfect introduction to West Coast mid-century modernism in "California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way" (October 1 through March 25). The exhibition begins at the roots of the modernist movement with the work of 1930s architects like Neutra and Rudolph Schindler before focusing on the modern California home, from the Eames's signature plywood and fiberglass furniture to objects by Heath Ceramics, Van Keppel-Green, and Architectural Pottery. The period's full range of flourishing creativity is represented, including the furniture, graphic and industrial design, film, textiles, andfashion of the era.
The Chinese AmericanMuseum (425 N. Los Angeles Street,Los Angeles, 213-485-8567) presents "Breaking Ground: Chinese American Architects in Los Angeles (1945-1980)" (January 19 through June 3), an exploration of many underappreciated figures in shaping L.A.'s post-war urban landscape. Representing the Chinese-American community, the exhibition highlights the works of Eugene K. Choy, Gilbert Leong, Helen Liu Fong, and Gin Wong and their influence in Mid-Century Modern and Googie Architecture movements.
"The role of the designer," Charles Eames once said, "is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests." It's only fitting that the home of the pioneering husband-and-wife duo Charles and Ray Eames would be open to exploration. The Eames House Foundation (203 Chautauqua Boulevard, Pacific Palisades, 310-459-9663) presents "In Indoor Ecologies: The Evolution of the Eames House Living Room"(October 1 through April 30), the home Charles and Ray built for themselves in 1949. Recreating their living space, the foundation borrowed LACMA's original Eames furnishings from across town. The A+D Architecture and Design Museum (6032 Wilshire Boulevard, L.A., 323-932-9393) exhibition "Eames Designs: The Guest-Host Relationship"(October 1 through January 16) illustrates the philosophy behind the duo's designs with lesser-known, everyday objects from their daily lives, alongside signature furniture pieces, films, slide shows, and quotes.
While mass production began to boom, Sam Maloof was going against the tide, moving toward the American studio furniture movement that favored the aesthetics of handmade craftsmanship. In "The House That Sam Built: Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945-1985" (September 24 through January 30), the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (1151 Oxford Road,San Marino, 626-405-2100) features the fruits of more than 25 yearsof his career, including the 1969 Double Music Stand and 1950 Occasional String Chair. The work of his friends like Millard Sheets and Emil Kosa will also be on display.
Afterwards, the Huntington opens "Carefree California: Cliff May and the Romance of the Ranch, 1920-1960" (February 26 through June 17), a reminder that there's nothing like a the spaciousness and tranquility of a California ranch house to make an urbanite reconsider his dwellings. Drawings, models, sales pamphlets, photos, and many other mementos of the era illustrate May's prolific career, during which he designed thousands of these models of casual living that integrate the outdoors into the home with patios, glass corridors, and ample backyards.