Saturday, August 31, 2013

Odds and Ends

Passed a few large planters on the sidewalks of downtown Long Beach, but I don't know if they are part of the same art project described in the previous post.

Surely not the same artist, since these are mostly mirrored mosaics, but they are the same theme--sea and coastal life. So maybe a bit of funds were left over to buy planters?

This one is on 3rd Street--it's the only picture that turned out well. There were many more.

And I know I've seen the studio--and big yard--of an artist in the city of Long Beach who does this sort of work. But it was 2-3 years ago and I cannot find his name now. Dang!

Perhaps someone will comment with more info and I can do a proper post about him. Quite certain it was a him.

The other picture is also a drive-by shot of that somewhat mysterious giant horse and man outside the IHOP in Westchester, on the southeast corner of Manchester and Sepulveda.

Only it's not so mysterious at all. As Professor Adam Arenson pointed out a few months ago, this marble statue, by artist Bill MeGaw, was part of the Millard Sheets Studio's artwork for yet another bank that is long gone--United Financial, or possibly Imperial Bank.

And that's all I know about that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sea Life Embedded in Long Beach Sidewalks

One of these days, I will realize that I should never ever leave my camera at home.


Even while serving jury duty.

I walked around downtown Long Beach at lunch time (potential jurors get very long lunches) and found wonderful mosaics in the sidewalk along 1st Street between Long Beach Blvd. and Pacific, and along Long Beach Blvd. between Ocean and 3rd Street. The stretch along Long Beach Blvd. is the Transit Mall, from what I understand.

And maybe there's more . . . I didn't walk every block downtown by any means.

I saw crabs, jelly fish, snails, barnacles (right), anemones, and all sorts of sea creatures--and some land creatures too, like gulls.

Looking for information on the mosaics, I found this explanation of how they were made, along with the artist's name, at

Shoreline-themed mosaic art by Robin Brailsford showcases coastal plants and animals. The sidewalk mosaic designs are keyed to the lettered bus shelters, e.g., the barnacle at Shelter B, and the crab at Shelter C. Brailsford, along with Lee and Ron Shaw, is a co-inventor of “LithoMosaic.” Her artistic tiles are white-glued to paper, then set on hardibacker board with thinset. The art is then set by the mason into a monolithic concrete pour à la Lithocrete technique.

Artist Robin Brailsford invented and patented the LithoMosaic process, by the way.Her website shows pictures of an installation in San Diego. (other options at the website don't seem to be working, though...)

Since I didn't have my camera, I'm using LandscapeOnline's pictures--I hope they don't mind. I suspect their pictures may actually have come from the city of Long Beach or whatever PR firm is used by them. Because these pictures look exceptionally professional., don't they?

Some of the money to fund this came from the Long Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, a function now taken over by the city itself. The rest came from cooperative efforts between the city's Public Works Dept., the Metropolitan Transit Authority (a lot of this art is at the southern terminus of the Blue Line), and federal funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The project that brought us the mosaics also created new shelters and bus stops,like the one at left.

The article at Landscape Online discusses some of the particular challenges of the Transit Gallery project, like basement areas, lighting, and uneven curb heights and sidewalk slopes. 

The mosaics are actually coded to match the letter of each shelter/stop--so, anemones at Shelter A, the Barnacle at Shelter B, and Crabs at Shelter C.

There are eight canopied shelters, built by Birdair, but I'm not sure how many have mosaics.

This Facebook photo page is the motherlode of pictures showing the construction and artwork along the sidewalks.  It's called "Ah, ha! Shoreline Stroll." It shows that the mosaics include lizards, pelicans, and bees.


Giant bees! If you're squeamish, these will give you nightmares.

More pictures--really beautiful shots that show the mosaics in the concrete--are here at Shaw & Sons Concrete website, who collaborated with Brailsford on the project.

Brailsford is now working on the Irwindale Station of the Gold Line--you can see an video of her talking about the history of that community here, on YouTube. Her artwork will be both built into the pavement, and set into a trellis overhead.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Santa Monica Mosaic House

Been meaning to blog about this private home at 26th and California in Santa Monica--but I'm rather a Johnny-come-lately (do people still use that phrase?)

I'm the latest in a long list of bloggers who've taken note. The house was mentioned in Mosaic Art Now, on the LA Is My Beat blog (from whence this first picture came), ExperiencingLA Blog (which posted pictures of the apple tree, below left), 365LosAngeles, and more--as well as  a YouTube video (actually, several).

And the TV show Home and Garden has featured the house.

The house belongs to Louise and Aziz Farnam, who moved in when they immigrated from Iran in 1979. They raised six children here--but the house sat quietly, unnoticed and downright nondescript until 2002.

That's when Louise started creating the mosaics, after participating in a craft class at her son's school. Aziz jumped on the ceramic bandwagon very quickly so tiling the house with tiles they cut and placed themselves has been a joint effort.

Aziz estimates that 15 million pieces of tiles were used, starting with the apple tree, left. That apple tree--with not just red tile, but shaped, round, red tile apples--was the first picture they created, and more trees, fish, landscapes, abstracts, and religious figures followed.

And they kept going. Is there a 12-step program for mosaicists? Louise and Aziz have covered their house, garage, retaining walls, chimney, alcoves, patio, and pathways. They've added fountains and statues.

There are also mosaic portraits of Shamu the whale, a unicorn, an angel, exotic parrots (the family owns some live ones, but the mosaic images are larger than life). And that's just the outside.

Inside, according to the Travels with Two blog (which has a feature called "Weird Houses of LA") (I'm sure they mean that in the nicest way), there is a mirrored mosaic fireplace, mosaic pillars, and the furnishings are covered with chips and tiles and grout--the writing tables, coffee tables, lamps, benches, vases, trays, mirror frames, and picture frames.

Travels with Two also links to the Flickr stream, with even more pictures.

The back of the house, facing an alley, is a tribute to Hollywood, as well as mountains, rivers, and deco-ish doorway in greys, golds, and sand. Not a real doorway, though, just the image of one.

At this point, Ma and Pa Farnum have run out of wall space to play with (the kids have apparently battened down the hatches to their rooms) so the Farnams started a business, Custom Mosaic Art.  This unicorn picture came from that website.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 20 (2013) talk in Venice on Buster Keaton Film

This comes straight from their email announcement:

The Films and Career of Buster Keaton including his famous Venice Film by Elaina Archer  August 20th at 7:00 pm (Venice, CA)— 

The Venice Historical Society (VHS) has scheduled a classic evening watching the Cameraman, a famous Keaton film featuring an important aspect of Venice history with a site remembered by many early bathers as their favorite place in Venice – The Venice Plunge. Film Historian and documentary filmmaker, Elaina Archer will be presenting this wonderful program about Keaton’s career and discussing his tremendous contribution to the world of comedy. ...
Tuesday, August 20th, at 7:00 pm, and will be held at S.P.A.R.C. (Old Venice Police Department Building), 685 Venice Boulevard, Venice, California, 90291. Free for VHS members. $5 for non-members. Snacks available.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wurlitzer Building

The Wurlitzer was billed as "the world's largest music house" when it was designed by Percy Walker and Alber Eisen in 1924 (the Platt Building juat down the block was also built to house music companies and had the same architects). In both buildings, one floor--according to Richard Schave of LAVA--was a concert hall, and the building was filled with practice rooms and offices.

The 13-story building would cost a million dollars to erect, and go up in six months-- incredible speed, according to an LA Times story in 1923. It confirms that that there would be a large recital hall, as well as a showroom for pipe organs. And I found this interesting: even in 1924, Wurlitzer occupied the bottom four floors and basement area, but leased out the top eight floors as loft space to other concerns.

Thirteen stories was the legal limit in those days, and I believe the first floor usually encompassed a 2nd floor mezzanine, so that there was never a 13th floor. Please, someone, correct me if I'm wrong.

The other tenants of the Wurlitzer included milinnary companies that sold hats and clothes, which we know because they suffered losses in fires in the 1920s. Since the building was concrete, the fires did not spread to other floors.

If you look closely at the photo above, the names Mozart and Verdi are carved in the medallions beneath the Wurlitzer name. The detail of bas relief  and sculpture on the place is incredible.

 There's also a Wurlitzer Building in Detroit, built two years later on a corner of Broadway in that city, and it was that building's website that gave me a history of the Wurlitzer Company itself. The founder was Rudolph Wurlitzer, whose family had been "trading" in musical instruments since the mid-1600s. Quite a legacy. Rudolph, a recent immigrant, founded the Wurlitzer Company in Cincinnati in 1856.

The company hit its stride during the early 20th century, when it built large organs for theaters that were--at that time--showing silent films, most of them pretty short and thrilling. Organs were ideal for that sort of venue because besides simply playing Bach loud enough for the sound to fill a large auditorium, organs "could produce a variety of sounds, from banjos to harps to orchestra bells to train whistles and galloping horses."

(Wurlitzer automatic phonographs--which I think were jukeboxes--came along in the 1930s but were sold from a different location, on Highland.)

This photo from the library is dated 1931.

Today, the Wurlitzer leases office space for companies like Aesthetic I found this detailed article (but undated and probably pre-2009) with a photo spread about one of its tenants--the architectural firm Tag Front--in Dwell. Coincidentally, Tag Front has a 3000-sqft office on the 7th floor--where (according to Steve of LAVA) the concert hall once was.

As for the Wurlitzer building in Detroit, all tenants moved out in 1982 and the beautiful building was sold several times and allowed to deteriorate. The roof failed, and recently the rear wall has suffered two collapses, sending concrete and whatnot into the alley behind it. Given Detroit's current problems, it doesn't look hopeful that much can be done to save that structure.

In fact, the building seems to be for sale again and Curbed Detroit has posted this recent picture, with commentary.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sidewalks in front of Clifton's Cafeteria

Are these mosaics? Let's stretch the term and say yes.

This is part of the sidewalk outside Clifton's Cafeteria on Broadway, which is currently closed for the "most comprehensive restoration since it was constructed, having served over 170 million guests since Clifford Clinton transformed the Boos Brother's Cafeteria into a forest oasis at the heart of the Urban Jungle in 1935."

 That quote is from the Clifton Cafeteria website, where there are lots of historic and new pictures along with news about the restoration. They found a whole grotto under a staircase, for example, and a bunch of hand-tinted pictures of the area from the old days.

And of course, the neon sign was uncovered--read about that on BlogDowntown.

They're even planning a TIki Bar as a nod to the Cliftons Pacific Seas, once on Olive.

But will this sidewalk mosaic medallion of a sailing trip to Catalina Island (you can just make out the metal wording) be restored as well?

No one has said anything about the sidewalk, which is technically terrazzo,  and sometimes mosaic, and that worries Richard Schave of LAVA (Los Angeles Visionaries Assoc.) and, who led a tour down Broadway the last Sunday in July.

(There'll be another tour on the last Sunday in August, focused a bit more on the north--3rd and 4th street.)

(The tour is free, but you must reserve in advance.)

Well, since it seems I've digressed from the sidewalk into talking about the tour, I'll add that the Broadway walking tour follows FREE lectures given in the upstairs room of Les Noces de Figaro at 618 S. Broadway. Those lectures are called "The Sunday Salons" and take place on the last Sunday of each month, at least through the end of the year.

In July, the two lectures (each about 45 minutes) were on Mack Sennett and the search for the Oldest Neon Sign in the USA (thought to be right here in Los Angeles). That second lecture was by Dydia DeLyser and was full of wild research taking us through old photographs of Packard dealers in the 1920s, in both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

If that's enough of a tease, go check out LAVA's Sunday Salons.

Back to the sidewalk! The concern is that nothing in Los Angeles city ordinances protect the sidewalks in front of buildings. The sidewalk is a blur of public and private land.

In the early part of the o2th century, up through the 30s, theatre owners and other entrepreneurs--like Clifford Clinton--put in beautiful sidewalks downtown, and some have survived. But for how long?

The sidewalk in front of CLifton's--technically Clifton's Brookdale--with 12 scenes from Los Angeles' history, was installed in 1934. And up to the 1950s, this spot (Broadway & 7th) was the busiest intersection in Los Angeles, so the sidewalk artwork was constantly appreciated.

 I learned from Public Art in LA article that designer Frank Romero and community redevelopment agencies may have had a hand in restoring this and other decorative sidewalks on Broadway in the 1980s.

Only a couple of the scenes before Clifton's are visible now, because of the construction. This picture to the right is from a Flickr stream put up by Jericl Cat. Go look at the lovely pictures, taken in 2007.

I have no end or wrap-up to the post, because no one knows for sure what will happen.

Just for fun, though, here is a link to the LA Times' panoramic view of Clifton's Brookdale--but it doesn't show the outside. Just the incredible inside.

August 9 update:

Here's a link to some fantastic photos of not only the sidewalk (though there's a baker's dozen covering that) but the interior of CLifton's Brookdale, taken by Bob Marlow!