The Julius Shulman Institute (JSI) at Woodbury University is currently exhibiting There is Only One Paul R. Williams: A Portrait by Janna Ireland at the school’s WUHO Gallery outpost in Hollywood, a show that re-calibrates and reorients Paul Revere Williams’s built legacy through architectural portrait photography. The exhibition features the work of photographer Janna Ireland, who created a series of black and white photographs that highlight minute elements of buildings designed by the Los Angeles architect. Over the course of getting to know Williams’s work, Ireland, a self-described neophyte to architecture, created over 200 photographs, ultimately gravitating toward, as she explained via email, “the small details because, taken together, they allowed me to make sense of the larger picture. It was a meditative process.” According to curators Andrea Dietz and Audrey Landreth, the monochromatic works on display aim to reconsider the oeuvre of the “prolific yet under-appreciated” Williams, a boundary-smashing African American architect who designed roughly 3,000 works across the Los Angeles area and was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in 2017, the institute’s highest honor. “The images that made the final cut did so for the elegant lines and simple geometries that identified the work as Williams's," Dietz explained via email. "The goal was to demonstrate both the consistency and range of Williams's hand—and the unique clarity of Janna's eye.” The finely-considered nature of Ireland’s meditations on Williams’s work brings out subtle and meticulous qualities in the buildings themselves, revealing the romantic and deeply personal moments peppered throughout the homes and structures Williams designed over his 60-year-long career. Working together with the curators, Ireland is able to use the physical space of the gallery to set up conceptual oppositions between idiosyncratic bits of Williams’s work, harnessing the 500-square-foot space to depict a complex and heretofore uncharted portrait of an overlooked genius. Utilizing groups of images to reveal these competing aspects, Ireland breaks down Williams’s monolithic and largely unknowable body of work into more digestible elements, comparing modern and period staircases in one set of images and showcasing the architect’s delicatesse with resolving complex, intersecting geometries in another. Describing this eclecticism, Ireland said that “Williams had to be versatile because he was already at a disadvantage due to his race.” Williams's multi-style approach cloaked a deep fascination—and facility—with the basic components of architectural form. That fascination takes different routes, depending on the project, client, and their desired treatment. In his more modern works, for example, Williams backlit spare, open staircases with vertical runs of glass, filling the areas below the treads with tropical plants and rock gardens. Under more Spanish-inspired stylings, staircases zigzag back and forth solidly, concealing spaces below tile-topped treads. In another instance, a colonial staircase takes on more elegant motions: The doubly-curved underbelly of a stair’s stringer swooping up, revealing a thin and pliable surface decorated with a curved skirtboard, projecting treads and thin balusters. In these images, Ireland conveys a sense of mindful specificity that, when coupled with the various stylistic treatments, makes one yearn for the days before architectural components all came off-the-shelf. Instead, Ireland makes clear the labor of the architect, the hand-built nature of buildings, and the cornucopia of skills necessary to bring drawings and details to life in wood, stone, and plasterwork—aspects that are not only lost in contemporary building, but sorely missing as well. Another grouping—a set of three images—focuses on the skill with which Williams deployed curved geometries, embedding sinuousness deeply and subtly within his work from an era typically associated with straight lines and flat planes. With an undercut swoop of stucco gliding past an eclectic revival doorway, views of colonial-styled trim meeting at unresolved edges, and the freeform, french curve-derived arcs of a midcentury ceiling, Ireland highlights a dexterity with trim, plaster, and ruled surfaces that perhaps also has been lost to time. The swooping eaves and projecting window hoods in other photos describe some of Williams’s best eclectic works, concealing—and creating—unique material collisions that arise inside each building, qualities that are enriched through built-up layers of fondant and trim. “[Williams] labored to find out exactly what his clients wanted and then labored to give it to them. It was more important to him to design for the clients' desires and needs than it was for him to push a singular, distinctive vision," Ireland said. The architect's stylistic dexterity is well-known—his work ran the gamut in terms of style, embodying Hollywood Regency, midcentury modern, as well as Spanish-, Tudor-, and Second Empire- Revival styles—a quality that comes through in the nearly taxonomic photographs Ireland has created to compare their respective components. Though the vast majority of Williams’s works are residential in nature—glitzy chateaus, solemn haciendas, and sprawling ranches that work to convey the clients’ proclivities through curb appeal—the show also highlights his commercial and civic projects, including designs for the stately Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building. The exhibition succeeds where very few have tried and perhaps none have succeeded, painting an intimate, personal, and meticulous portrait of one of the postwar era’s most prolific and virtuosic architects. Ireland said this outcome was self-fulfilling: “If his work seems personal, I think it's because it was. It was of personal importance to him that his work be impeccable, and he was also very consciously designing for the personalities of the people who would be using his buildings.” The maturation of Williams’s prodigious built legacy has generated renewed interest in his work, but much of this interest is too broad in nature. The sheer scope and breadth of Williams’s oeuvre has eluded considered academic examination. "[In] many ways [Williams] has been written out of L.A.’s architectural canon. We’re trying to bust through the dam of people not doing shows on his work," said architect Barbara Bestor, JSI’s director and a major force behind the exhibition. “There’s not enough source documentation of Williams’s work,” she added, alluding to the fact that much of the Williams archive was destroyed by fire following the 1992 L.A. Riots, before the works could be digitized. “In the digital era, if you’re not published online, you cease to exist as a research topic,” Bestor said. “My job as an architect and student of 20th century design is to figure out why so many of my heroes don’t have Wikipedia pages.” Regarding the exhibition, Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, dean of Woodbury School of Architecture, said, "WUHO is committed to hosting exhibitions that celebrate diversity and reposition important voices often overlooked by mainstream media. Notable past exhibitions have included the 2013 show, Deborah Sussman Loves L.A., a long overdue celebration of this pioneering environmental and graphic designer, and the exhibition of the photographs of Pedro E. Guerrero by the [JSI]." Williams’s work, along with much of the press and academic research associated with it, was collected in a 2010 exhibition organized by the Paul R. Williams Project, an initiative of AIA Memphis and the Art Museum of the University of Memphis. The exhibition was created to highlight the architect’s career and to begin the process of formally documenting his work while re-elevating Williams to the perch atop the discipline he had occupied before his death in 1980. Leslie Luebbers, project director for the Paul R. Williams Project, explained via email that work was currently underway to bring the exhibition to other parts of the country in a few years. For now, the group is touting a bibliography of Williams’s writings and mentions in the press in an effort to spur new academic research on the architect. As those efforts take flight, Ireland’s photographs will perhaps provide impetus for new insights into Williams’ storied career. “Looking at details (and shooting in black and white) allowed me to focus on form and design,” Ireland explained. “I interpret his work as being meticulous yet really warm and human, and those are the qualities I wanted to convey.” The exhibition is on view through February 11, 2018. See the WUHO Gallery website for more information.
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Legend of sixties-era utopianism, Francois Dallegret and Los Angeles-based French architect Francois Perrin have brought their traveling retrospective of Dallegret’s work to the Woodbury School of Architecture-operated WUHO Gallery in Hollywood. The exhibition, Le Monde a l’Envers / The World Upside Down, is funded by grants from The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, The Canadian Center for Architecture, The Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, and Dorothy Lichtenstein. It was first shown at the Architectural Association in London in 2011. Using 1960s-era supergraphics and photographs, wall-hung furniture prototypes, and historical ephemera, the exhibition brings to light Dallegret’s ambitious and playful oeuvre, focusing extensively on his fascination with the handmade and the automated. Dallegret is most well-known for his monumentally complex and bubbly Graphos pen illustrations for Reyner Banham’s essay “A Home is Not a House,” a project whose popularity has seemingly eclipsed a much wider and considered body of work. But Dallegret has been consistently busy since the 1965 essay, having designed fluttering windmills for Montreal's Expo 67, modular park seating and light fixtures for the 1976 Olympic games, and various light installations throughout Canada and France in the decades since. Regarding the start of his career in France, New York, and ultimately Canada, Dallegret told AN, “I was totally on my own, I didn’t read anything. I still don’t read very much actually, and I was just doing my own thing. I was interested in automobiles and mechanical stuff, so it all became embedded in my drawings.” Dallegret’s ever-youthful, media-diverse, and experimental career benefits from the retrospective format. Perrin, curator and designer for the exhibition told AN, “There’s obviously way more materials we could be showing, but we made a careful selection [of Dallegret’s work]. It was difficult budget-wise to bring prototypes and original drawings, so the idea was to create a narrative through the images by blowing them up, so you are immersed in the work.” That experiential quality is picked up from Dallegret’s work, directly, as nearly all of the projects displayed relate to their use relative to the human body, from Banham’s bubble to a crucifix-shaped bed, to pack of cigarettes the designer was commissioned to do in his adopted homeland. When asked about the body-focused aspects of his work, Dallegret said “I was working alone, so the only guy I could use for my drawings was me. So, I used myself in most of the drawings and set ups showing the devices I invented and et voilà.” The exhibition points to tensions inherent in social and technological change via the sometimes sarcastic musings Dallegret imbues in his work. His use of then-new industrial materials—the bent sheets of aluminum for the multi-use Chaise Ressort chairs, the inflatable rubber inner tubes and brightly-colored anodized aluminum sections in his Automobile Immobile car prototype—point toward new aesthetic modes rooted in industrial production. In these works, Dallegret seems to poke fun at the inconsistencies of his era’s essential privileges, leisure and mobility, by designing a lounge chair that does the work of two and by crafting a car that can’t go anywhere without blowing a tire. King of the French curve, the Montreal-based designer’s works are also marked by the sinuousness inherent in the plastic materials of the Space Age. His design for a restaurant called Le Drug from 1967 uses molded wire mesh sprayed with concrete to create bulbous and continuous booths and tabletops while stylized air supply ducts hang down from the ceiling. Dallegret also makes extensive use of collage and relies on the inherent re-thinking of scale resulting from piecing together found images in a pre-Photoshop era to imbue his work with its characteristic insight and sass. His brand of analog, appropriative, scale-challenging aesthetics and conceptual approaches, like the Rape à Fromage tower, for example, which supposes a residential function for a super-scaled cheese grater, would certainly be at home in many of today’s graduate schools of architecture. For these reasons, there is an oddly contemporary quality to the work presented in the exhibition, a fact that is not lost on the still-active Dallegret himself. No word yet on where the exhibition heads after its L.A. run, but Dallegret has plans for a future furniture-related exhibition with new prototypes in the works. Dallegret’s retrospective is on view at WUHO Gallery in Hollywood through June 26, 2016.
Matter, Light, and Form: Architectural Photographs of Wayne Thom, 1968-2003 WUHO Gallery 6518 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles Through December 20, 2015 Best known for his keen documentation of Late Modernism, Wayne Thom’s architectural photography brings drama and beauty to a period marked by corporate and developer-driven design. Now, the Julius Shulman Institute at Woodbury University presents an exhibition of Thom’s work at the WUHO Gallery in Hollywood. Curated by Nicholas Olsberg and Andrea Dietz, the show spans the photographer’s five-decade career and is organized into three sections based on typologies: towers, pavilions, and plazas. The exhibition title Matter, Light, and Form speaks to the photographer’s belief in architecture as sculpture. According to the curators, Thom has never “lit” a piece of architecture, instead he would wait for days for the right light to hit a building. “[T]o paraphrase Louis Kahn, sometimes buildings don’t know how beautiful they are until the camera’s eye falls upon them,” noted Olsberg. In July, when AN profiled Thom’s work, writer Daniel Paul made a plea for an institution to acquire Thom’s archive. Later that month, the University of Southern California Libraries, Special Collections announced that it would purchase and manage the archive, thus securing Thom’s legacy and singular architectural eye.
Gregory Ain: Low-Cost Modern Housing and The Construction of a Social Landscape WUHO Gallery 6518 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles Through April 26 Gregory Ain was a pioneer in the development of low-cost modern housing, and many of his efforts fused radical, left-wing politics and cooperative living with architecture. And a new exhibit in Los Angeles spotlights five of the architect’s most innovative housing projects. Projects included in the exhibit at Woodbury University's WUHO Gallery in Hollywood are Dunsmuir Flats, Park Planned Homes, Avenel Cooperative Housing, Mar Vista Housing, and Community Homes Cooperative. The show consists of classic black and white photographs by Julius Shulman and contemporary color shots by Korean artist Kyungsub Shin. Shin’s photos—first commissioned for the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale in South Korea—document how Ain’s small-yet-well-resolved houses—clustered to lower costs, share resources, and create social connections—can still accommodate contemporary lifestyles. "People are highly attracted to these houses today,” said show curator Anthony Fontenot. "There's something very comfortable about them, but they're still strikingly modern." The show also includes original materials, such as Ain’s “manifesto” of the planned community, fleshed out with drawings, documents, letters, and other archival materials. "We could learn a lot from looking at his ideas," said Fontenot. "Our own ecological, economic, and political climate demands that you cannot exist on your own."