Christopher Mount Editor
Foreword by Jeffrey Deitch
Skira Rizzoli, New York, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Architecture
9.5 x 11 inches, hardcover, 272 pages, 250 color photographs
ISBN: 9780847840113
Suggested Retail Price: $65.00

From the Publisher. This is the first critical examination and history of what was first identified as the “L.A. School” in the 1990s, which has influenced much of American architecture in the last twenty-five years. This expansive new book examines contemporary Southern California architecture from 1987 to the present, exploring its experimental nature, sculptural tendency, and exciting evolution. This volume complements a major exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and is part of the Getty Research Institute exhibition initiative “Los Angeles Architecture, 1940–1990.” Contributions by leading architectural historians coupled with a stunning collection of images present recent works in terms of sculpturalism and urbanism, and consider the impact of the history and environment of Los Angeles, as well as the creative and working processes.

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Phil Patton

A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California was created to accompany an exhibition curated by Christopher Mount and set—after some controversy—to run June 10, 2013 to September 2, 2013, at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Some context: the Pacific Standard Times “suite” of shows has largely done its job, earning South California more respect as a hotbed of arts innovation in the 1950s through 1970s. Beginning two years ago, in dozens of exhibitions, more than 60 cultural organizations across Southern California celebrated the emergence of the Los Angeles art scene during 1945–1980. Now the focus has moved on in time and subject—to architecture in the 1980s. A New Sculpturalism is one example. It is billed as “the first extensive, scholarly examination of the radical forms in Southern California architecture during the past twenty-five years” and one of its focal points is work from the mid-1980s by Frank Gehry, Franklin D. Israel, Thom Mayne, Michael Rotondi, and Eric Owen Moss. In this era, Los Angeles underwent one of those periods that cultural historians love, where things visibly changed in the cultures, high and low, and you can talk convincingly about zeitgeist.

Several key points can be noted as symbols in the history of this period: the 1984 Olympics, the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)—the Temporary Contemporaryand the completion of MOCA by Irata Isozaki in 1986, which established the opening to the west, and a sense of Los Angeles as a genuine world city. The list might be extended to the 1992 civil disturbances and the Northridge Earthquake of 1994—even the O.J. Simpson live television chase, a pop monument to new omniscient and omnipresent media. The city’s mood may have been summed up in Mike Davis’s influential book City of Quartz, which depicted L.A. on the edge of disaster, from earthquake, drought or fire or their social equivalents.

The sculpture of the title is visible in the twisting and fracturing of the pure geometries of modernism. Modernism had come to California as an immigrant, and like so many immigrants at first thought it had found paradise. But the challenges to the economic dream were matched by those to the purity of the modernist dream. By the 1980s, the “techtonic” twists to modernist geometries made the mood visible: they were the tensions of failed modernism, or at least of modernism under stress.

What is refreshing about the book is a sense of architects who are open to new approaches—even, in the clichéd view of the Golden State, to crazy new things. There is a sense of California as a place where architects become more daring and perhaps more show-offy.

The examples in the book appear to have been chosen in part to show that however much it draws from the state’s “terroir,” its dynamics are also exportable. Two cases are Frank Gehry’s downtown Manhattan Beekman Place residential tower and Thom Mayne’s Cooper Union building.

The book comes with a series of complex charts of the relationship of study and work among the architects. In addition to the curator’s introduction, there are essays by U.C. Berkeley professor Margaret Crawford, the Los Angeles journalist Sam Lubell, the architectural historian Nicholas Olsberg, and the exhibition’s curatorial research assistant Johanna Vandemoortele.

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