If the adage is true that “God is in the details,” then the current exhibition at Christopher W. Mount Gallery in West Hollywood might grant the venue some status as a holy site. On view through January 20, 2016, in the second floor space of the Pacific Design Center’s “Blue Whale” and entitled Mapping the Information Age, the exhibition is comprised of a collection of thirteen large, intricately detailed and color-coded microchip circuitry diagrams, framed and accompanied by a projected slideshow of historic imagery from the companies that produced many of the prints, such as Intel Corporation, Synaptics, Inc., and Hewlett-Packard, among others. “The complexity is appealing,” said gallery director Christopher Mount, as he discussed the strong impression conveyed through the diagrams. “There’s rigor here, even if we don’t understand it.” The diagrams, upwards of four to six feet wide, were used by microchip engineers and designers if something went wrong in the development process. “If you were designing a chip and it just wasn’t working, you’d bring these out,” said Mount. “Somebody would make sure that the memory was connected in the right way. You would spend days with them.” Mount, who has curated exhibitions at MOCA and LACMA, and held directorial positions at the Pasadena Museum of California Art and Parsons, first became interested in the prints while working on an exhibition at MoMA in 1990 that was organized by Cara McCarty, titled Information Art: Diagramming Microchips. The prints currently on view at Mount’s gallery were culled from that show. The collection engages with a discussion about the status of the drawing in contemporary design practices. The idea that such visually substantial prints, which are well suited to the gallery context, are the outcome of technological troubleshooting or routine “debugging” processes on the part of the microchip makers, raises questions about the expectations that we generally have of drawings. Designers and architects often use drawings to present idyllic possibilities, usually before the constraints of reality have come to bear on the design. The visually intricate microchip diagrams, however, are themselves the outcome of an error, a means to visualize and correct a problem. “These were not intended as art,” Mount noted. “But as functional design drawings.” For Mount, the question of authorship is another complicating factor: “People walk in here all the time and say, 'So, who’s the artist?' And I have to explain: 'Well, it’s Hewlett-Packard, or it’s Intel, or it’s Rockwell Technologies.'” The visual abstractions captured in the diagrams suggest a number of interesting and alternative readings. Mount recalled that some visitors see patterns for textiles, others see architectural plans. “They look like cityscapes, or any kind of urban complex.” he said. “They have the spirit of Corbusier.” In the precisely ordered, nanoscale grid of the plans, the viewer can read systems and interactions at a scale that is more relatable to everyday life; imagining some processor components as parking garages, others as apartments, and the green spaces in-between as parks. “The colors are all particular to the companies,” he explained, but are generally used to convey the visual depth and order of how the components would be stacked. “The lightest colors go deeper, the darker colors are higher up on the chip.” The diagrams might also reveal a sense of collective anxiety about how little we actually understand about computational processes. As smart devices occupy more of our time and attention, how important are the inner workings that these “black boxes” obscure? “We all use a computer every day, but you forget that this is the thing inside,” Mount said of the processor components. “People forget that in 1990 these were brand new.” Because desktop computers and microchip processors were less common twenty-five years ago, there tended to be a greater appreciation for the efforts and outcomes in the development of computer hardware.“Now, I think everybody comes in and recognizes them as microprocessors.” The computational complexity seems to be taken for granted, which means viewers are more interested in the formal qualities of the diagrams. Perhaps the shift from technological wizardry to mundane ubiquity is the neglected aspect of the information age that demands a more detailed mapping. As such, the diagrams on display might also reveal something about how we relate to designed objects more broadly. “I think everyday things aren’t appreciated,” said Mount of the objects that we often take for granted. “I’ve always been a real advocate for design.I like the fact that it’s available to everyone. I like the idea of a calculator that’s wonderful to look at and makes you happy, and can sit on your desk for twenty-five dollars.”
Posts tagged with "Pacific Design Center":
When the Future had Fins: American Automotive Designs and Concepts, 1959-1973 Christopher West Mount Gallery, Pacific Design Center 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA Through May 20 Once upon a time the American car industry was king. Nothing captures the prestige, aspirations, and mythology of Detroit’s heyday quite like the working sketches and drawings used to develop and promote the land boats we used to call automobiles. A new show at Christopher W. Mount Gallery focuses on sketches from designers at the “Big Three”—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—from 1959 to 1973, when those companies were as important as Google, Apple, and Facebook. The sleek, colorful cars with their dynamic angles and large hoods capture the sexiness and muscle that is long gone in today’s car culture. Visionaries like Ford’s John Samsen and GM’s Bill Michalak had a mastery and an expressive craftsmanship on paper that is far removed from the digitized and sanitized world of 21st century rendering.
Having observed the absence of architecture and design materials from the American art collection scene, curator and scholar Christopher W. Mount decided to fill the gap himself. His eponymous Los Angeles gallery, housed in the Pacific Design Center, opens to the public on Friday, May 23 with A Modern Master: Photographs by Balthazar Korab. A second gallery, open by appointment, will be located on the Upper West Side in New York. “I really thought that this was the time,” said Mount. “I thought, ‘Here is a subject matter that major museums collect, and there hasn’t been somebody who opened a gallery.’” A former curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, Mount more recently had a bumpy ride as guest curator of A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California, part of the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time series. He describes his new gallery as “a labor of love” and a natural extension of his museum work. “When people talk about what is it you really like to do, the answer [for me] is to find works, put them on the wall...and educate people on architecture and design. Get people to appreciate it as something that is equal in aesthetic pleasure and beauty to regular fine art,” said Mount. The works his gallery will display—including photography, drawings, and, possibly, architecture models—“is often towards another end, but is often beautiful in and of itself.” As for choosing LA as his headquarters, “I think part of the reason to be based in Los Angeles is...[that] the architecture profession is much less strictly commercial,” said Mount. “Certainly these people are wildly successful, but they tend to be more experimental.” At the same time, his work on A New Sculpturalism left Mount with a sense of how disconnected the New York architecture world is from what is happening in Los Angeles. “The idea is to promote this work, promote the designers and the architects, and hopefully we’ll promote it throughout the world,” he said. After the Korab show, which closes August 29, the Christopher W. Mount Gallery will exhibit photographs by architectural photographer Benny Chan. Mount also plans a show featuring drawings by prominent mid-century car designers, timed to coincide with the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
The Pacific Design Center's Red Building, the final piece of a three-structure complex, is nearing completion. Designed by Cesar Pelli, the building's jutting red glass facade is in now in place, and the project should be complete by this fall. Photographer Kenneth Johansson has been documenting its construction for the last two years. His pictures don't just reveal the developing bones of the building, they showcase the often-overlooked construction workers who make projects like this happen. "I have all the respect in the world for these guys," said Johansson, of the builders, who he calls "heroic" (you can see why). He plans to release a book on the project next year. Enjoy this slideshow of the construction from start to the present. (Click on an image below to start)
The red carpet is not a place where architects usually spend their time. But on Sunday Diller Scofidio + Renfro took home a Breakthrough Award, for their work in architecture. The prizes, handed out at the Pacific Design Center (AN was there believe it or not..) went to emerging performers like The Kids Are Alright's Josh Hutcherson (Actor in Film) and Modern Family's Sophia Vergara (Actress in TV). So how did Architecture wind up on the roster? "We've noticed that architects are starting to be known by name again," said Jan Hall, Marketing Director for MMC, which runs the competition. On Monday, we'll find out if DS+R win Eli Broad's coveted new museum commission downtown. If they do, they'll no doubt catapult into the elite starchitect sphere... Perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come?