Today in Beautiful Things I Will Never Be Able to Afford: An extensive collection of custom George Nakashima furniture is coming to LAMA in February:
In 1962, Edmund J. Bennett, self-taught residential builder and community planner, opened the Carderock Springs subdivision in Bethesda, Maryland, a housing development that promised community and modern living. Ahead of its time, the Carderock Springs subdivision featured homes with 4- and 5-bedroom houses, which were “modeled to cause as little alteration to the natural landscape as possible.”
In addition to his modern housing designs, Bennett was a savvy marketer. In September 1963, to publicize a newly developed section in the subdivision, Bennett with the help of architect-designer Doris Harris, commissioned George Nakashima to completely furnish the Valleyview model home to attract the attention of contemporary buyers.
Bennett’s marketing strategy paid off. On November 16, 1963, The Washington Post published an article about George Nakashima, his designs, and the Carderock Springs subdivision, bringing over 1,000 people to the model home that week alone.
The collection includes a Conoid bench, a hanging wall case, a Slab II coffee table, a set of 12 Conoid chairs, hanging wall mirrors, a Frenchman’s Cove II dining table and extension, a Q Bench, a double sliding door cabinet, table lamps, a Conoid storage headboard, two daybeds, a “New” lounge rocking chair, and many other expertly crafted designs.
"Deep As Your Pocket" by Loretta Lynn (1970). From Writes ‘Em and Sings ‘Em, which indeed she did. Christgau nails it:
Owen Bradley steals a trick from Andrew Loog Oldham here even if he never heard of the fella—like Flowers, this is a “concept album” conceived largely to recycle old material, and like Flowers it works anyway. No cover filler or publishing tie-ins, just the continuing saga of a strong-willed woman committed to a male-defined world. In most of these pungently colloquial songs (punch line of “You Wanna Give Me a Lift”: “But this ole gal ain’t goin’ that far”), Lynn is either boasting or telling somebody off, and even when she’s addressing herself to a woman, what’s got her excited is a man—her man, for better or (usually) worse. A-
The band is crackerjack too. Sounds like James Burton on guitar to me.
IN-62 Table by Isamu Noguchi (1948). Richard Wright explains its appeal:
This table illustrates what I love about Herman Miller—their willingness to be experimental. … Each of the three tables I’ve handled had different stone tops, but on each the quality of the finish and handcraft was superb. But then all this work is done on a very quirky three-legged table that absolutely straddles the line of sublime and ugly. When you take the marble top off, which is beautifully finished, the quality of the wood legs is not that great. Then there is this stainless steel bowl, some kind of a planter that you can float a flower in. For all the world it looks like a dog bowl that has had phalanges welded onto it. They literally adapted some sort of off-the-shelf bowl. On all three tables the construction detail is the same. Ultimately, for me, this is Herman Miller at its best.
One of these tables sold in 2005 for $630,000. More Herman Miller castoffs and curiosities here.
Forget the Allmans. The Best Live Album Ever is by The Band—and it’s not The Last Waltz. From my official nomination letter:
There was always something generous about The Band. The vocals, for starters: few other acts have ever had three lead singers. The Beatles had three, and so did the Beach Boys; they harmonized damn well, too. But what made The Beatles and The Beach Boys so spectacular vocally was that they could vanish into each other with their voices. They blended because they were consonant.
The Band was different. Levon Helm’s voice was a throaty Delta burr. Richard Manuel’s was a black-coffee moan. Rick Danko’s was a high, clear sob. They didn’t sound anything alike. When they sang, they stumbled in and out and over and under each other, Appalachian-style, making no attempt to neatly align every note. And yet the effect was at least as potent as Lennon-McCartney-Harrison or the Wilson-Love clan.
Usually with harmony, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. But with The Band you can hear always hear the parts and the whole at the same time, and the force and beauty of each is undiminished. A seamless blend is breathtaking, but you get more music for your money with The Band—more lines and phrasings and shadings per second, more to discover and delight in and return to. No other group is like that.
Read the rest here.
New in house: David Hockney, The Boy Hidden in an Egg. Signed offset lithographic poster from Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, Galerie Der Spiegel, Cologne (1970)
How did I never know about Hockney and Grimm before?
Hockney began working on etchings for Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the late sixties. He had made some experimental prints inspired by ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ in 1961 and 1962 and now wanted to make a whole book. He loved the stories and had read all 220 of them over the years. He eventually chose twelve stories but only did engravings for six. …
The work of engraving the copper plates was carried out by Hockney with his assistant Maurice Payne on special tables set up in the Powys Terrace studio. The acid baths were kept on the balcony outside, because otherwise the fumes would have filled the whole flat. The finished etchings formed a more complex project than anything he had attempted before. His new technique of cross-hatching instead of using aquatint achieves a much richer range of tones.
In 1969, Hockney published his version of Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm as an artist’s book:
In each book edition, the unit is a volume with closed bolt pages handsewn and bound, and a sleeve containing loose etchings, in a single slipcase. Each portfolio is in a box with the cover hinged on the longer side. The books, sleeves, slipcases and portfolios have been bound in full leather, each edition in a different blue. All bindings and boxes have been made up by hand by Rudolf Reiser in Cologne.
The book has been printed in four editions of 100 with 15 artist’s proofs, each including the six fairy tales and 39 etchings; they are signed and numbered on this page. Each volume is accompanied by six loose etchings in a sleeve selected from the book, signed by the artist on the face and numbered on the reverse; the editions each having a different set of loose etchings as listed below.
I’d love to get my hands on one of those, but they’re a bit too pricey for my blood.
For now we’ll have to make to do with our exhibition poster—and the beautiful images below.
A recent review nails their appeal (for me at least):
For the most part the illustrations are allusive, not so much off-topic as off-action, looking for moments of stillness that freeze the characters and their quizzical psyches in space. Simplified and cut close to the bone, they suggest the strange ritualistic timelessness and eerie hyperrealism that make the worlds of fairy tale and magic so potent and memorable. The tales, and Hockney’s illustrations, reside in that enthralling, floating, slightly frightening space where childhood glimpses adulthood, and adulthood slips back into childhood. “They’re fascinating little stories,” Hockney wrote, “told in a very very simple, direct and straightforward language and style; it was their simplicity that attracted me. They cover quite a strange range of experience from the magical to the moral.”
If you’re in Los Angeles tonight, stop by See Line Gallery between 6:00 and 8:30 for the opening of Elizabeth McCord Paintings.
Elizabeth McCord was an influential California modernist painter who was pretty much forgotten after the 1950s but really deserves to be remembered. I’m hoping this little show will help kickstart a revival.
I discovered McCord’s work through (surprise, surprise) Alvin Lustig. Turns out that in 1950 Julius Shulman photographed the home that Lustig designed for the artist June Wayne. And guess whose painting was hanging over Wayne’s sofa? Elizabeth McCord’s:
Here’s more information on McCord from the release I wrote to accompany the exhibition:
“Our own body processes are accessible to the direct experience of painting and this is the ‘message’… Painting is a balance of paint energy.”- Elizabeth McCord, 1981
See Line Gallery is pleased to present Elizabeth McCord Paintings, an exhibition of rarely seen and newly discovered paintings from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s by groundbreaking California modernist artist Elizabeth McCord (1914 -2008). It is the most in-depth examination of McCord’s work in nearly 20 years.
Elizabeth McCord was born in 1914 in Dayton, Ohio. From 1932 to 1934, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago; after graduation, she taught at the Hull House, Chicago’s first social settlement. While participating in the Work Progress Administration (WPA) between 1939 and 1943, McCord created her first mature works, several of which were exhibited in 1940 at the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.
In 1945 McCord moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Her paintings—colorful biomorphic and architectural abstractions that helped to shape California’s hard-edge movement of 1950s—were greeted with widespread acclaim, frequently appearing in shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Art Museum, the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Art Association, and the Art Center School of Design alongside works by Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg, Josef Albers, June Wayne, and Knud Merrild, among others.
McCord’s paintings were uniquely poised at the intersection of Southern California’s thriving mid-century art, design, and architecture scenes. In 1951, McCord’s work was featured in LACMA’s cutting-edge exhibition Painting in the USA; the same year, she participated in Six Portable Murals, a group show organized by the Los Angeles Art Association that advertised itself as a collection of paintings “designed especially for mid-century architecture.” “Painting,” a large McCord abstraction acquired by June Wayne and prominently displayed in Wayne’s Alvin Lustig-designed home, appeared on the cover of the Nov. 11, 1951 issue of The Los Angeles Times Home magazine in a color photograph by Julius Shulman. Leading architectural critic Esther McCoy wrote the accompanying article.
In 2011, the seeds of a McCord revival were planted when her Big Pink (1951) was the only painting chosen to appear in Living in a Modern Way, LACMA’s sweeping, celebrated survey of mid-century California design, which is currently traveling internationally.
Now, with a wide selection of rare and unseen paintings handpicked from family archives by curator Janet Levy, Elizabeth McCord Paintings both deepens and expands upon the ongoing—and long overdue—rediscovery and reevaluation of this seminal modernist’s work. The biomorphic, hard-edge forms of the 1950s give way, in the 1960s and 1970s, to paintings that blend looser brushstrokes with tighter geometrical masses yet continue McCord’s intensely personal, near-architectural exploration of “light and form”—a style she described in 1981 as “a pulsating surface superimposed over a cubist architecture with transparencies, arabesques and rectangular parches.”
“[I] mov[e] around over the canvas with color until something speaks to me, some discovery is made,” said McCord. “Then begins a long process of adjusting and destroying, adding and subtracting until the surface falls into place with a balance of movement and peace.”
"Dunes" by The Clean (song 1990, footage 1989, video 2013)
I’m from New Jersey—just like the Kurt Versen floor lamp. But I didn’t hear about Versen until I moved to Los Angeles and started to read up on my California design history.
For some reason the Versen lamp was ubiquitous in West Coast modernist circles in the 1940s and 1950s. I think the reason was that all those designers, editors, and architects knew what they were talking about.
It’s my idea of the perfect lamp.
Over the past few weeks I’ve made a hobby of Versenspotting. Whenever I stumble across a Versen lamp in an old ad or architectural photo, I clip and save it. It’s like my own nerdy version of Where’s Waldo.
As evidence of the august company that the Versen floor lamp (and its sconce progeny) once kept, I present the photos above.
From top, row by row, left to right: Versen + Alvin Lustig; Versen + George Nelson & Eero Saarinen; Versen + Frank Lloyd Wright; Versen + Gregory Ain; Versen + R.M. Schindler; Versen + Knoll Associates; and Versen + Richard Neutra.
And yet, despite their midcentury ubiquity, Kurt Versen lamps are strangely obscure these days. Almost no one talks about them and they only occasionally come up for sale.
Funny how that can happen.