Sunday, October 05, 2008

Between Earth and Heaven

I hope anyone who reads my blog has had a chance to see the John Lautner exhibit(Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner) at The Hammer Museum in Westwood. If not you have next week to catch it! We made a trip today to check it out, this weekend is a free L.A. Museums weekend, so we spent the afternoon in the Westside, first having lunch at the Farmer's Market(at the rather pedestrian but tasty Johnny Rockets) which although I have been to the adjacent Grove shopping Center I had never taken the time to see this Los Angeles jewel! It has been a big tragedy for me and I am ashamed to have never given it a chance, I will have to return and hopefully get a post about it. At any rate the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt...which was the style at the time.

Lautner Exhibit: as you may know I had the pleasure of living in a(somewhat obscure but significant) Lautner for nearly two years, it was the house we came home to after our honeymoon, and the house we brought our son home to from the hospital so although we were forced to move suddenly and due to unpleasant circumstances it will always have a special place in our hearts. What a joy and suprise it was to see the original drawings of our "Honeymoon Cottage" on display in this wonderful exhibit. It is an austere presentation but the stunning highlight is sheet after sheet of original Lautner drawings. Lautner was not known for his drafting but I think that has been a harsh assesment, these drawings are fabulous in the way you see the design process , the are all pretty "rough", almost minimalist in there bare bones presentation, but the daring ideas leap from the page. These are not anteseptic presentation tools so much as a creative explosion, the content is the star not the medium. I thoroughly enjoyed them, I wish I could have got a folio of them, there are the usual photos, Lautner now 14 years after his death is well regarded and well published, but I was not expecting to see so many concept sketches, and vignettes.

I have drawn since as far back as I can remember, I discovered a Frank Lloyd Wright book in high school and by my second year in college I had been to Taliesin West in Phoenix and purchased "The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright", I poured over these studying them and largely basing my own drawing style on them, Lautner being an early apprentice actually learned at Wright's side, I had only his publications to guide me. As such throughout college I was nicknamed "Frank Lloyd Cueto or Frank Lloyd Neutra" I did not take them as the insults they were probably meant, because I didnt "copy" them but try to learn from them. My father taught me to draw in perspective when I was about 6, it was as signifiant to me as being taught how to read by mother; since that time I have been drawn to technical illustration and the great drawings by Wright, Neutra fed that during my college years. I love to draw, but care more about working out the idea and seeing it come through than I am with perfect lineweights and polished presentation, and so it was refreshing to see a seminal figure like Lautner display these qualities.

By most acounts Lautner was a shy man, who it was described entered a room not like his blustering mentor Frank Lloyd Wright but like a big friendly whale swimming around the occupants. At 6' 4" (my own height more or less occasionally I will claim 6'5") he was by most accounts a "giant of a man". I can certainly relate to that, and have admired his shyness, as I consider myself shy and have more than once rellied on my size to make an impression more than my personality. Of course people who know me well might disagree but that of course is after I get to know them. But more than his height being an indicator of his presence you can see the forceful bold strokes on the paper of a man with a heavy hand, cutting and slicing through the blank page with almost a Roarkian intensity leaving a completely new conception of space/shelter in it's place. Lautner stands on his own next to the master(FLLW) that in itself is no average achievement.