Monday, January 30, 2012

Millard Sheets Mosaic and Tour

Huzzah! The LA Conservancy is presenting another Millard Sheets tour; this one covers Claremont and Pomona. The tour will feature some of the murals and mosaics that I know so well, since I once lived in Claremont (more to the point, so did Sheets--for years and years.)

The Conservancy's tour is Sunday, March 18th, from 11:30 am till 4 pm, and tickets are $30--cheaper if you're a member. Get more info and make reservations here.

The picture above right is the Garrison Theater and proves once again that in spite of the building's beauty, it is well nigh impossible to get a good picture of the place. Believe me, I've tried. The sun and reflectivity of the marble fights you at every hour. Here is evidence: an earlier Mosaic Monday post about the theater, which is part of Scripps College.

The Garrison Theater is on the LA Conservancy tour, of course, as is Sheets' studio, now a medical building on Foothill Blvd.

The other tour highlights are listed at the Conservancy site, but the one I'd like to feature for Mosaic Monday is the former Home Savings and Loan Tower in Pomona, which once anchored the open-air mall in the early 1960s.

The mall celebrated Pomona's 75th anniversary, and was the first pedestrian mall west of the Mississippi. Business leaders in Pomona asked Sheets to help them build it, and Sheets asked the owner of Home Saving, Howard Ahmanson, to build a bank there, saying, “I want you to buy me the best block in the center of town and develop it…I know you don’t have any special reason to come to Pomona—except you’re my friend and I need your help.”

The mall flourished...briefly. By the 1970s, businesses had started to close up, and much of mall was reopened to automobiles (but not all).

Here is the beautiful mosaic. When the bank tower first opened, the second floor, which overlooked the atrium, functioned as an art gallery, with changing exhibits.

The bank is six stories, and last I heard Chase --who owns it now--is still deciding on the feasibility of repairing and preserving the mosaic.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Re-imagined Movie Posters

Peter Stults and Sean Hartter designed these movie posters, which are showing up on a lot of ad blogs. Mediabistro pointed me toward one, but you can google the artists' names and find many more. Here, I reproduce only those that celebrate movies with a Los Angeles setting--like Pulp Fiction.

Pulp Fiction used the old Hawthorne Grill for its beginning and ending scenes. That place is long gone, demolished, even--but the movie's success prompted someone to reopen it briefly and run it as a coffee shop once more.

Wonder what role Stults and Hartter had in mind for Yul Brynner?

Now how about The Big Lebowski? I understand the bowling alley is history, but the scene where the Nihilists order pigs in a blanket was filmed at Dinah's in Culver City.

Andy Warhol as Mr. that's a funny thought.

They also re-imagine The Hangover starring the Rat Pack, Avatar with William Shatner and Natalie Wood in blueface--and Yul Brynner again, probably taking over Wes Studi's role. And John Wayne, of course, leading earth's troops.

Here's another--can you see Leonard Nimoy reinvented as an action here? Me neither. Or Spock saying "Yippee Yih Oh, mf?"

More realistic to picture Nimoy playing Alan Rickman's character, but that probably wouldn't have make a good poster.

Die Hard was filmed in a West Los Angeles Tower... I forget which one.

What else do they have? Inception with Judy Garland as the Architect and Bela Lugosi as Mr. Saito. That poster is beautiful.

How about John Wayne as Superman?  X-Men, Star Wars, and Sidney Poitier and Pam Grier in The Matrix.

You can see more posters and read about the artists at the This is Not Advertising blog,  AdWeek, and even the Daily Mail/UK--where the original movie posters are also displayed.

Just one more...there are posters for Terminator and Terminator II: Judgement Day. Both had scenes shot in Los Angeles, like that great chase through the concrete LA river. I chose the latter because...because Danny Bonadeuce as John Conner is about as good as it gets in Bizarro World.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Early 60s Tiki Mosaic

Argghhh! Can't believe I forgot Mosaic Monday!

And there is no holiday to blame it on. Well, I did get called before noon to pick up a sick grandchild from school which necessitated picking up a car seat in the pouring rain, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line--that took a couple hours and broke up my day. SO I'll blame my forgetfulness on that. If I need to blame it on something. 'Cause I sure don't want to cop to just being forgetful.

This mosaic is found on the Clubhouse Building of New Horizons in Torrance, a senior "area." It's not closed or gated, so I don't want to call it a complex. It's just a subdivision full of apartments, recreation areas, parking lots and streets that rents exclusively to those over 55.

I could live there. Gulp.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Hmph. Do they still teach Prufrock in Junior High?

Anyway, this subdivision-for-seniors opened in October 1964.

This is a mosaic. I know from the street it looks like a woven piece, maybe even burlap, but here is a close up that shows the tile work.

The Clubhouse sits on Maple Ave., and New Horizons spreads around it on Nadine Circle. I discovered the place (well, sort of. I knew it was there but never had to pay attention) when I canvased for my candidate in 2008. The addresses made no sense and drove me nuts, but my candidate won anyway. Yay!

Finally, here is a newspaper photo from the 60s showing the clubhouse--a gigantic Polynesian A-Frame.  Tiki Architecture, where I found this picture, and a lot more information, says that it's an 80-acre development and the architect was Ray Watt of Southland Builders. There are also tons of pictures.

Ray Watt built over 100,000 homes and 50 shopping centers in the Southland from 1947 into the 90s. He had a huge influence, even served as Assistant Secretary of Housing & Urban Development in the Nixon administration, and lived to be 90 years old. Here's his obituary, posted by USC.

The mosaic was there from the start. Scroll down on the Tiki Architecture link, and you'll find a sketch of the clubhouse entrance and mosaic by the designer, Selected Interiors (drab name; what were they thinking?), and a description of the place. It's 10,000 square feet with a 10-foot high fireplace.

I found a lot more about this clubhouse than I thought I would, but nothing about the mosaic designer. Oh, well.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vintage Los Angeles Photos

Wow...old pictures of Farmer's Market and Wilshire Blvd. in the early 1950s. Hollywood in the 40s, and even earlier. Then of course, they featured this video of Angels Flight back in the day. Where? Vintage Los Angeles on Facebook!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Recreations of Long Beach

This incredible mosaic adorned the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, where it was installed in 1938. Today, it's on the Long Beach Plaza parking structure, which troubles many people. Is that a safe home for the WPA-funded work of art? An appropriate home?

Forty artists work on  this piece, titled "Recreations of Long Beach." It's 38 feet high and 22 ft wide--obviously, meant to be seen from a distance. The supervising artists were Albert Henry King, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, and Henry Nord. Their signatures are woven into the border. Nord was apparently the original designer, while King and MacDonald Wright supervised the creation.

Construction began in 1936 and went on for over a year. The tesserae tiles were laid out and cut in a big room in Los Angeles. In a unique twist, different patterns and textures were used for each design element. That was MacDonald-Wright's idea, and he used it in other mosaics--though none were as large as this artwork. After it was cut, each section was sent to Long Beach where another group of artists cemented the section to the wall.

The 2nd Municipal Auditorium was built in 1932 on 20 acres of landfill, just south of Ocean and Long Beach Blvd (which was called American Avenue then). It was torn down in 1975 to make way for the big convention and entertainment center--the Terrace Theater sits just south of its space now, I think.

Here's a shot of the mosaic in its current position near 3rd street, where it has been since 1982. If you want to see old postcards of what the Municipal Auditorium looked like inside and out, go to this site for some great photos and stories--including shots of Elvis, Judy Garland, and other stars who appeared at the Auditorium.

And here's a picture from the National Archives of the installation of the mosaic back in 1937.

The Municipal Auditorium jutted into the ocean, and a big breakwater was built around it, called the Rainbow Pier. It wasn't a pier, but it was shaped like an arch--hence the rainbow name. More landfill went on in the 1950s and 1960s, so a lot of where the Long Beach Convention Center and Shoreline Village etc. are located was once beach and water.

As for the mosaic, efforts have been made over the last ten years to find it a better home...but it's just so big. And everyone agrees that it should remain accessible to the public. It was the largest WPA artwork done in its day.

The WPA Art Project website posted this photo of the Municipal Auditorium under demolition, and it looks like the mosaic is still there.

I guess we're all lucky it survives to this day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Tattooed Rabbi

I'm plugging a book and a book signing.

You're welcome.

Marvin J. Wolf will be signing copies of his new book, the first in the Rabbi Ben series, next Sunday (January 22, 2012) at Venice' Temple Mishkon Tephilo, 206 Main Street. at 11 am in the Social Hall.

This book gets featured on the HistoryLosAngeles Blog because I found wonderful tidbits of LA history hidden among the mystery's clues and threads: the tangled ownership and operation of Jewish cemeteries, including Hillside; the cache of stolen law books, untended dynamite and grenades that forced the evacuation of the Arco Towers downtown (remember that? 1986--here's the Los Angeles Times story); the kosher restaurants; much more.

What the LA Times piece doesn't say, and what is only hinted at in the book, is that the criminal who hid the dynamite and grenades under the Arco Towers actually lived by stealing books from law libraries and reselling them to law students. Wolf turns the story into a fascinating anecdote in person, but I was unable to find it via Google.

The Tattooed Rabbi is one of those great mysteries that leaves no real lose ends, even though it's the first in a series, yet hints at a bigger story to be revealed in the fullness of time.

Best of all, it wraps you up in an exotic subculture that most of us know little about.

I'll be posting a review on Amazon soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

UCLA's Mosaics--Modern and Not

Over two years ago I blogged about Joseph Young's History of Mathematics mosaic panels (16 in all) on the Math Building at UCLA. Here's a link, with a great close-up picture. This photo is not so close up, but I did stand on a wall to get it, risking life and limb (well, risking my dignity). The mosaics were installed in 1968.

And rather than repeat what I have said before about Joseph Young's work (although I have, a little), I'd like to exhibit other, completely different mosaics from a nearby building, Moore Hall.

Moore Hall was designed by George W. Kelham (who also designed Powell Library) and raised in 1930--the 5th building at the school. Everyone knows UCLA started with 4 buildings around a quad, right?

Here's a close-up of the stonework. I believe that can be legitimately called mosaic, right?

Moore Hall been refurbished twice--first in the 1950s by Kemper Nomland (a USC grad...hmph), and then again in 1993, but I don't think this stonework has been changed at all. The building is named after Ernest Moore, provost of the school when it was still the State Normal School on Vermont, and during its move to Westwood.

And that's it, that's all I can find. The style is Italian Romanesque, but I see nothing on the stonework, ornamentation, or decoration, all of which I call mosaic.

If anyone can add to paltry information here, I'll thank you profusely.

BTW, since this is Mosaic Monday and the post is about Westwood, here's another little mystery: I came across a mention in the Times in June of 1967--that on the 21st floor of a building at 1100 Glendon, the Westwood Tower Club boasted a mosaic by Millard Sheets. Never read anything else about that, and the current resident of that address and floor did not answer my call for information. Would be nice to find another unknown mosaic, huh?