By Irene Lacher 09/01/2011
Quick: What comes to mind when you hear the words “California modernism”? Pierre Koenig’s iconic Case Study House No. 22, seemingly teetering at the edge of a cliff overlooking Los Angeles? Richard Neutra’s fabulous blocky Kauffman House in Palm Springs? John Lautner’s otherworldly Chemosphere off Mulholland Drive?
Certainly those are the usual suspects, about which volumes have been written. But those glass-steel-and-concrete landmarks aren’t the whole story. Much like the state itself, home to many a freethinker, California modernism embraces design that marches to the beat of its own drum, while sharing in the sleek new style sensibility that impacted American artists and designers after World War II.
Indeed, the late legendary woodworker Sam Maloof, while considered a major figure in the California modern arts movement, had no particular interest in prevailing trends, as you can see in The Huntington’s big fall show about his work and his world: “The House that Sam Built: Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945–1985.”
Bettijane Levine previews the exhibition and introduces you to one of the finest woodworkers of our time.
Of course, California modernism still beguiles, helping to shape the current generation of designers and artisans. Brenda Rees talks to Pasadena Community College instructor David Johnson of Sidecar Furniture, who tips his hat to Maloof’s strong vision and legacy as he breathes life into chair-weaving techniques once popular among Danish modern designers. And Morris Newman writes about a recent arrival in Pasadena --- Better Shelter, a leader of the stylish new breed of house flippers, which utterly transforms its projects with great clean design before putting them back on the market.
And lest we forget, Michael Cervin looks at the legacy of a predecessor of the modernists and one of Pasadena’s most prominent architects --- Myron Hunt, whose many iconic public structures, such as the Rose Bowl, have outlived design trends to remain an inextricable part of the city’s landscape.