A few thoughts on books and exhibitions, after talking with my friend Jonathan Louie

William Leavitt, Theme Restaurant, 1986, Oil on canvas, 46 x 72 in. (116.8 x 182.9 cm), Collection of Richard Massey, Miami

William Leavitt, Theme Restaurant, 1986, Oil on canvas, 46 x 72 in. (116.8 x 182.9 cm), Collection of Richard Massey, Miami

Jonathan Louie, one of the exciting young members of HED‘s professional staff, has been telling me lately all about CicLAVia, urban design, architecture as an artistic practice and about being twenty-six and taking LA under his belt. Always there is exciting stuff to discuss with Jonathan.

This morning it was all CicLAVia, big successful bunches of it. And mostly about the Reyner Banham panel discussion on the 7th St. overpass with Christopher Hawthorne, Joe Day and Craig Hodgetts. Briefly and not really quoting: “they discussed Banham’s aims with the book and talked about urbanisms of then and now, helped us see that Banham was going way out on a limb by seriously discussing LA as having value from within the intellectual elite of that day; the critiqued some of his ideas from a present day place – smog, infrastructure, how cars are not always best, other current common wisdoms.” Coming from readers as deep as the three panelists it must have really rocked – I hope there were questions from among the crowd! From within the architecture community and the schools as well as from audience members who may have simply read the book from a non professional interest.

William Leavitt, "Interior with Cactus Painting and Spiral," 1984 Pastel on paper 33 1/4 x 41 3/4 in. (84.5 x 106.1 cm) The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Gift of Mike Kelley

William Leavitt, "Interior with Cactus Painting and Spiral," 1984 Pastel on paper 33 1/4 x 41 3/4 in. (84.5 x 106.1 cm) The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Gift of Mike Kelley

At this point two things popped into my mind. Joan Didion’s novel “Play It As It Lays” and the Bill Leavitt exhibition currently up at MOCA Grand Ave.

At Leavitt’s exhibition last weekend D and I saw paintings and installations that are so LA. The work is not critique laden, is not full of judgment about the freeways or the suburbs, Leavitt makes his work from within the community he is making his art about. This is not distanced feeling work. It is filled with love and regret and memories and hopes and all the stuff of life.

William Leavitt, Warp Engines, 2009, Mixed-media installation with sound, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist; LA>

William Leavitt, Warp Engines, 2009, Mixed-media installation with sound, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist; LA>

(Tell you what. I so tempted to sneak my i-phone in MOCA and take pix of the paintings I want right now. This despite the rather cruel guards who stop any motion  that might indicate picture taking. MOCA has two pieces imaged in their online collection. NOT the beauty from the last room with the wonderful, smoggy yellow sky. If you know LA and if you grew up here THAT painting is perfect for this discussion. wtf? LACMA hasn’t anything. MOMA has six but none that I want right now. Come on people – I am calling you out on this. People need access.)

"Los Angeles - The Architecture of Four Ecologies" Reyner Banham, Reyner Banham examined the built environment of Los Angeles in a way no architectural historian before him had done, looking with fresh eyes at its manifestations of popular taste and industrial ingenuity, as well as its more traditional modes of residential and commercial building. His construct of "four ecologies" examined the ways Angelenos relate to the beach, the freeways, the flatlands, and the foothills. Banham delighted in this mobile city and identified it as an exemplar of the posturban future. In a spectacular new foreword, architect and scholar Joe Day explores how the structure of Los Angeles, the concept of "ecology," and the relevance of Banham's ideas have changed over the past thirty-five years.

So first we have Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles – The Architecture of Four Ecologies (new from UC Press with introduction by Joe Day) and a visit or two to the exhibition “William Leavitt” at MOCA Grand Ave.

Then – buy a copy of Joan Didion’s 1970 novel “Play It as It Lays.” In this case, see the movie too. (Contemporary review by Vincent Canby in the NY Times, Oct 1972) I plan to hit up ebay right now and buy a paperback. For thirteen years David has been telling me of a scene where the character drives around the freeways all day in her Corvette convertible, cracking hard-boiled eggs on the dash, the shells gathering on the floor. I think that fires are involved in the hills, too.

The awful truth is that I have never read Didion’s book. Fortunately for me there is still time! Leavitt’s exhibition will be up through July 3!!!! Movies one may rent whenever. Books like “Four Ecologies” and “Play It as It Lays” are forever. YAY!!!

ONE MORE THING:

Go to the DWP Building on Bunker Hill. Go there today. Go there often. Stop at First and Hope or at Redcat for a cocktail if you like, or go on the way to a concert. Just go.

(Message to First and Hope: drop the crappy treatment of Anita O’Day’s “Peel Me A Grape” in your intro. O’Day does not require any embellishment. Whatever impulse drives one to do this might explain the weird atmosphere and experience last time I visited and makes me want to rethink my recommendation.)

Better Anita O’Day / Dave Frishberg listening after this Rhapsody link. Either join now or try for free. This song is worth it totally.

From the crest of Bunker Hill that is the seat of power in our city one can get a real sense of just where that same power lies. You’ll want to face in the direction of City Hall, as you gaze down the periodic magnificence that is sometimes the LA Municipal Mall you will see, at the very end and well beneath your ground level eyes from DWP Plaza: The very top of the tower of City Hall. Well beneath you, thank you. Power is here, or was. Architecture in this place is sculpture, it is symbol,  yes my friends this building and its plaza is architecture as art and as fact. And, as I remember Reyner Banham describing it: “from the 110 Fwy at night the DWP Building is a glittering ice cube…”

Magnificent on every level, are the opportunities afforded one who pays attention to our city.

This image almost gets the shot, but lacks climbing the additional level from btwn the Chandler and Ahmanson Plaza UP UP to the DWP Building. From http://www.flickr.com/photos/fridayinla/966237347/in/photostream/

This image almost gets the shot, but lacks climbing the additional level from btwn the Chandler and Ahmanson Plaza UP UP to the DWP Building. From http://www.flickr.com/photos/fridayinla/966237347/in/photostream/

You know, just because. Anita O'Day at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

You know, just because. Anita O'Day at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

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