Monday, January 25, 2016

Another St. Lawrence Martyr Mosaic in Redondo Beach

Happy Mosaic Monday!

I've blogged about two mosaics at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach before, most recently in 2010.

2010? That was ages ago.

Anyway, this post shows a photo of the huge mosaics on the front of the church that faces Prospect Blvd.

This big (but not quite huge) mosaic of St. Joseph faces a driveway into the school grounds, and you have to glance right while driving north on Prospect to see it.

This mosaic sits on school property, which was once nine acres of sand dunes--until it was acquired by the brand new parish in 1955 (there were no church or school buildings at that point; Mass was being celebrated at a Knights of Columbus Hall on Avenue I). The school opened in September of 1956, with an average of sixty children per classroom.

The permanent church was dedicated eight and a half years later in 1965, presumably with the second huge mosaic.

As you might guess from the collection of facts in the previous two paragraphs, the parish of St. Lawrence Martyr has a history page up now, which didn't exist when I wrote my first, sparse blog post in 2009 which featured a photo of the mosaic of its patron saint.

The artist for that 1957 mosaic, turns out, was Hugo Ballin, and I'm glad to correct that record. Ballin was known as a muralist. I'm going to copy what part of what I wrote about him 15 months ago in yet another post:

Hugo Ballin's story is interesting: he started working for Samuel Goldwyn when Goldwyn Pictures was based in New Jersey. A trained artist, he became an art director and production designer for Goldwyn. After following him out west, Ballin started to write and direct silent films and had his own production company.  Early, silent versions of Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair were among his films.

He returned to art in the late twenties, and you can see his work at:

He even designed the commemorative medallions for the 1932 Olympics, and he wrote a few novels too--at least one was quite controversial. When he died in 1956, he was said to be working on a 27-foot high panel for a Catholic Church in Redondo Beach. That may have been St. Lawrence Martyr, which was built in 1956. Ballin's work was only 1/3 done, though, so it was probably never installed.

Well, that last line proved to be dead wrong, didn't it?

SLM's history page doesn't tell me about either the new church mosaic or this third mosaic. I did walk up and look for a signature, with no luck. The detail of the mosaic is really lovely, though, so here is a photo showing the lower right corner, with the carpenter's tools and shadows.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Reading About LA

Here are some wonderful things to read, for when you have some free time:

  • Is someone gunning down peafowl? In semi-rural, moneyed Palos Verdes? Well, they were. That's the topic of a well-researched article in Los Angeles Magazine by Mike Kessler. I love that he interviewed Cat Spydell, whom I've met a few times. I even shared a booth with her and the mammoth sweetie-dog Drinian, just before she found and bonded with the baby peacock called Radagast. (All three are pictured at right.) Kessler also interviewed a few of the people who hate peafowl, so it's a pretty well-balanced report.

  • For a juicy report on the Playboy Mansion and its neighborhood, its history, the dimensions, a bunch of links, and a half-dozen pictures of the fabled estate, go to CurbedLA. Or check out this fact-heavy piece in the Wall Street Journal.

  • Want something to do, rather than something to read? The Night on Broadway is FREE! Takes place January 30 and celebrates the 10-year effort to "Bring Back Broadway", which is also the name of the host organization. Look over the Event guide that shows the block-by-block plans. Ferris wheels, art walks, vendors, a Festival Stage, dancers and vaudeville-like acts inside the theatres--maybe some films as well.

  • How did the Army Corps of Engineers get involved with the LA River? It all goes back to 1938 and some terrible flooding here. Actually, it goes back even further. KCET presents Carren Jao's excellent history of the Corps' expanding growth and oversight. That means, in the 21st century, that even something like allowing kayakers to use the River must gain approval from the Corps. The picture below shows the Army Corps of Engineers at work, building the bridge at Avenue 43 over the Arroyo Seco, later in 1938.

  • Monday, January 11, 2016

    LeTete Mosaics in Redondo Beach

    It is indeed a small world.

    I toddled into Le Tete in Redondo Beach, a clothing, jewelry, and accessory store in the Riviera Village that carries a few books by local authors. A friend had advised me of this last fact, so I hoped that Stella, the owner, would display The Boomer Book of Christmas Memoriesin the store. And she did!

    But that's another story. This post is about mosaics.

    The small world part comes when I entered. The store Le Tete is at 1911 S. Catalina, at the south end of that street, just blocks from the beach. It's a taller building than most on the street, with a large, fanciful, multi-color tree painted on the facade. On the side of the upper part of the building, you can still see the sign "Harmony Works"--that's the store that used to be there.

    I walked over a mosaic in the doorway. Ah-ha! I had just revived my blog and was looking for new mosaics to photograph. However, this was just before Christmas and the store was busy.

    Last week, when I returned with my camera to ask about the mosaic, Stella and I chatted. She pulled out a mosaic that she keeps in the jewelry display case and allowed me to take this picture of it and of her.

    Stella showed me the other mosaics she had on the walls, and even in the back patio. All of them were made by her husband, artist and mosaicist Stefan LeTete.

    When Stella showed me the small mosaics on the walls, and the one in the patio, she asked me if I knew about the Home Savings & Loan mosaics--she could not think of the name of the artist. When I said, "Millard Sheets," another customer jumped in. Millard Sheets has fans everywhere! We talked about his oil paintings, and the art gallery at the LA County Fair, which is now called the Millard Sheets Art Center. That's where an exhibition of Sheets' work was on display a few years ago, put together by his son, artist Tony Sheets.

    And as it turns out, Stella's husband Stefan LeTete drove out to Claremont decades ago to buy all the leftover tiles he could from the Millard Sheets Studios when that company closed down. Some of those tile pieces that he got from the Claremont studio so long ago--a studio that is today an optician's office--are in these mosaics that Stephan made for his wife's shop.

    As for that Pique-Assiette mosaic in the doorway: A friend installed that about a year ago, but I got so distracted that I never learned more about it.

    Monday, January 4, 2016

    Did Home Savings & Loan have Temporary Mosaics for Banks?

    The answer is yes, and here are two of them.

    Professor Adam Arenson blogged about these in 2012, and for some reason I missed that post--even though he was kind enough to include link to this blog. I'm just going to highlight a few major points here, and you can go to his post to get all the details (and more pictures).

    • These mosaics are signed MSD, standing for Millard Sheets Designs, and were probably first installed in Los Angeles in 1974.

    • These mosaics were framed, and were later moved to different locations, perhaps Westminster, Santa Cruz, and Riverside. They ornamented temporary buildings while the permanent Home Savings & Loan branch was being built, and while its permanent, unique artwork was being created and installed.

    • Currently, they are installed in Irwindale, at the San Gabriel Valley Corporate Campus on Rivergrade Road. This site was the coporate headquarters of Home Savings and Loan from 1985 to 1988, and of Washington Mutual after that.

    • I blogged about another piece of at this campus, a mosaic fountain by Joyce Kozloff.


    Saturday, January 2, 2016

    "Private Space Masquerading as a Public Space"

    That's how David L. Ulin describes Los Angeles's streets in 9-1/2 minute interview on KPCC. He said, since we stopped using the streets as public space after WW2--using them instead as private spaces as we drove, enclosed in our cars, from one public space to another--our streets are "now a private space masquerading as a public space."

    That's an intriguing concept to me. I got exposed to the idea of "public space"--a very strange idea to me at first--about 15 years ago when I met graduate students who were veering away from history to study Public Spaces in History: how designing a city or parks or streets actually shaped civic growth and culture, separating some groups from others or inviting them in. And of course, how those spaces changed over time, and what that meant about who was in control of the space.

    If that subject intrigues you, there's a TED talk on it, given by Amanda Burden: "How public spaces make cities work."

    Ulin also offers an essay called "Writing the City," which is basically a bunch of brief discussions on books about walking through cities, like Walker in the City, by Alfred Kazin. Which lead up to his contribution to the genre.

    So I've made this my featured book. At $15 for the hardcover, it's quite a bargain, and since the book just came out in October it has few Amazon reviews.

    And now I must go put in a request for the book from our library. Then I will review it.

    Have I mentioned how important Amazon reviews are to authors? More reviews means more visibility. Please, please support authors you like by writing reviews, however brief, for their books!