Subtlety and sophistication are likely not the first words that come to mind when considering the design tastes of Hollywood’s golden era. As the myth goes, Old Hollywood stars and players ruled like feudal lords; their houses gaudy palatial expanses marked by that neon curse of superficiality which people are quick to tie to their notions of la-la-land.
But like all myths, conceptions of L.A. – Hollywood in particular – as a place bereft of taste and culture are about as real as minotaur bones. To prove this point, UCLA is showing a new exhibit entitled The Other Hollywood: Modernist Architecture and the Los Angeles Film Community.
The exhibit features drawings and photographs of designs and projects by notable Los Angeles architects as commissioned by actors, directors and executives, demonstrating a tinsel-town of more durable stuff than the name suggests.
The designs show architectural modernism as varied and dynamic; a movement with far more to it than clunky concrete blocks buttressed by the force of their own pretensions. Modernism’s inclinations towards linear organization and natural harmony are highlighted in the works of A. Quincy Jones and Richard Neutra.
Featured are Jones’ sleek designs for the home of actor Gary Cooper in the Holmby Hills, and a number of Neutra’s rationalist works ranging from his villa for director Josef von Sternberg in the wilderness of old Northridge, to Westwood apartments that were home to Luise Rainer and Orson Welles.
The exhibition’s other architects show a side of modernism less formalistic and perhaps more ambitious. There are Lloyd Wright’s designs for the two shells of the Hollywood Bowl and for a home known as Novarro House (recently put up for sale by Christina Ricci) in Los Feliz which features art deco ornamentation and an open three floor layout.
Finally, there are the grand movie theater designs of S. Charles Lee, sweeping and dynamic, a clear connection between the Modernist impulse to innovate and the Hollywood desire to entertain; proof of Los Angeles’ willingness – if not eagerness – to embrace the new in striking ways.
Young Research Library is located on the UCLA campus, in Westwood. For hours and more information, call (310) 825-7143 or visit www.library.ucla.edu.
Culture: Art [Modernist Hollywood]
Modernist Hollywood: Now-Oct. 15 @ UCLA Young Research Library
By Sam Roudman
Article posted on 7/17/2006
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