POW! WOW! Pop Culture

A homegrown street-art festival gives way to the bright, imaginative murals making a cultural statement in Hawaii

Word on the street in Hawaii: turn a corner, go under a bridge, pull into a parking garage, or simply stride the sidewalk for a while and encounter a large-scale assault of the sensory sort. This means murals—enormous in size, ambition or both, always beautiful, sometimes comical, many with a bold social undertone. These epic, eye-popping pieces pulsate with an energy and animation that give color, character and creativity to a place that is all these things and more.

Public art is nothing new; it’s long been a means of beautifying communities. But the practice of taking it to the streets is especially resonant in Hawaii, which nurtures a rich storytelling heritage and is a prominent part of Native Hawaiian culture. The fact that Hawaii is one of the most isolated places on Earth, her islands scattered in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, makes it a melting pot of different ethnicities, which has resulted, quite strikingly, in one of the most diverse, and imaginative, street art scenes in the world.

“Being based in Hawaii, Native Hawaiian culture is very important and we try our best to use public art as a vehicle to tell cultural stories,” says artist, curator and entrepreneur Jasper Wong, who founded POW! WOW!, an annual street art festival that gives participating artists—half of them locals—the opportunity to share one’s history and story via their own work of art. “It takes it directly to the general public without the barriers of other institutions.”

Named after comic book culture (“POW!” is how art impacts the individual, “WOW!” is the measure of one’s reaction to it), the weeklong event has become its own movement, in Hawaii and beyond, active in more than a dozen cities across the globe. Locations change, but the goal does not: POW! WOW! aims to spruce up communities, thereby changing their very fabric, helping increase foot traffic in once-forgotten districts in order to support small business, bring people together, prop up local creative industries, promote indigenous artists, and serve as an educational resource for community youth.

“We hope this will then help to build bridges between people and create a worldwide collective of like-minded individuals,” says Wong.

That the beauty of Hawaii is a wellspring of artistic inspiration may be cliché, acknowledges Wong, but it’s also fact. How an artist chooses to translate this is singular to personal experience, perception, and intention. The same is true in other places where POW! WOW! is painting the town—though no canvas could ever be considered as radiant as Hawaii.

Written by Jenn Thornton
Photographs: courtesy of Jasper Wong and Brandon Shigeta

Norton Simon Museum Stages an Exhibit of Ellsworth Kelly’s Lithographs

Uncommon Bond

Norton Simon Museum stages an exhibit of artist Ellsworth Kelly’s lithographs

In the 1960s, artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) started creating lithographic prints. At the time the American artist was midway through a successful art career and had confined himself to sketches and sculpture and painting. His first two collections of lithographs, started at roughly the same time, are a study in contrasts, and how things that appear very different on the surface can have more in common than one might initially think.

Currently on display at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Line & Color: The Nature of Ellsworth Kelly exhibits these two collections side by side: Suite of Twenty-Seven Color Lithographs is a collection of brightly colored abstract works; Suite of Plant Lithographs is a classicist’s study, figurative and sparse, of plants, flowers and fruit.

Photographs (from left) Blue and Orange and Green (Bleu et Orange et Vert), 1964-65 Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015), Lithograph on Rives BFK paper, 35-3/8 x 23-7/8 in. (89.9 x 60.3 cm), Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist, P.1969.019, © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Maeght Éditeur; Camellia II, 1964–65 Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015), Transfer lithograph on Rives BFK paper 35-3/8 x 24-1/4 in. (89.9 x 61.6 cm), Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist, 1969, P.1969.044, © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Maeght Éditeur

Though visually different, the artist meant for the two collections to mingle. Their connection? The soft geometric shapes of Suite of Twenty-Seven Color Lithographs were informed by the clear-cut lines and silhouettes of the plant lithographs—and vice versa. “Shape and color are my two strong things,” said Kelly in 2012. “And by doing this, drawing plants has always led me into my paintings and my sculptures.”

The different aesthetics of the two collections makes sense given Kelly’s biography, which includes postwar years spent in Paris studying classic art forms—and drawing plants—followed by a return to America in the 1950s that coincided with a burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement in New York City. It was there that Kelly set up shop in Lower Manhattan alongside Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and others, and his bold, abstract works found a home.

Accompanying the exhibit are two of Kelly’s paintings. At nearly 30 feet long, “White Over Blue” consists of two oversized panels that hand alongside each other, commissioned for Montreal’s Expo 67. The other is “Red Orange White Green Blue,” a collage of five panels joined together to create an unbroken spectrum across the wall. Should one find oneself seeing double, the exhibit runs through Oct. 29.

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Written by: Constance Dunn    

Exhibit L.A.

The ninth annual Art Los Angeles Contemporary lands at Barker Hangar this month

Written by Jenn Thornton

The global art community turns its gaze to L.A., as Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar welcomes Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC), Jan 25-28. Now in its ninth year, the West Coast extravaganza will put the contemporary art world on show in a city as culturally diverse as its representation.

“As the international art community looks towards Los Angeles as a new global epicenter, it is essential to have an event that draws upon a comprehensive notion of the city,” said Tim Fleming, founder and director of Art Los Angeles Contemporary. “ALAC is a product of Los Angeles’ unique cultural community composed of an incredibly diverse array of artists, galleries, curators, institutions, collectors and enthusiasts.”

A quick glance at ALAC’s 2018 exhibitor list proves Fleming’s point. Along with a substantial group from L.A., including David Kordansky Gallery and AA|LA Gallery, are domestic galleries from San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit and New York, and an international contingent spanning from Montréal to Moscow and prominent points in between. Fair first-timers from Bogotá, Lima, and London will join both upstart and established galleries. This exhibitor group, as well as programming devised to provoke an examined discussion of contemporary art, will, as Fleming puts it, affirm L.A.’s emergence as a “powerful cultural hub.”

Another edition of note: the special issue Art Los Angeles Reader, produced in collaboration with Mexico City quarterly Terremoto and spotlighting contributions from leading curators, artists, writers and others.

Barker Hanger
3021 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Fresh Perspective

Interior designer Lindsay Pennington brings her classic Southern sensibility to the contemporaria of California

Written by Jenn Thornton

“It certainly has been a trajectory, although it hasn’t been a straight line,” says Lindsay Pennington of her transition into interior design (Kentucky to North Carolina to California, to be precise). Hers is an atypical path, but hardly improbable. As a girl, Pennington followed her mom, an interior designer, on jobs (wallpaper samples in the back of the car). Her father was a landscape architect, her grandfather worked in the building industry, other family members were architects. Design is in her DNA.

But the academic Pennington excelled in school and was awarded a scholarship to Duke University. There she earned a law degree and met her future husband, a native of Utah, who, upon expressing his desire to return west, prompted Pennington to think, “I don’t know what you could possibly mean by ‘out west’ other than Los Angeles.” So that’s where they moved. Pennington found work as a securities litigator in DTLA and loved it. But the work became less academic over time, there was seemingly no end to it, and she traveled a ton. She also had two kids. On business trips in New York, she would invariably end up in some antique shop or interior store.

“I just reached my natural limit with it,” Pennington says. “I knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. But I didn’t go to design school, so it was a pretty risky enterprise for me to strike out on my own.” (Not technically, perhaps, although one could argue Pennington’s youth qualifies as an education.) It was at a family funeral in Kentucky when, “It just hit me—how short life is, how quickly it goes,” she says. “ I knew that I had to give it a shot, because I wanted to live my dream.”

In 2013, Pennington launched Lindsay Pennington Inc. Since, she’s worked on local projects from Studio City and the Hollywood Hills to Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz across the country to New York. Though raised in the romantic Southern ideal (“You could eat off the floor of my grandmother’s house” and “I didn’t see an Eames chair until I was 25,” she says), Pennington’s sense is to create classic spaces with a contemporary cool that are “comfortable, warm, and cozy.” She’s more likely to use luxurious velvet opposed to less durable linen, for example, but always in an interesting way.

Putting a high premium on functional beauty, Pennington prefers playing with color and pattern (a stripe, a floral, ikat) in spaces with a neutral palette for flexibility and a modern freshness. “People don’t really call me for the all-white room,” she says. “I tend not to approach things from that perspective, because I’m thinking about how a rug will last. Will the kids spill something on it? Will the dog track on it? That’s the emotion.”

To Pennington, a home is a “living, breathing thing” with its own energy, so she loves a “collected over time” look that she uses family heirlooms and vintage pieces to achieve. She distrusts design without books, gravitates toward a good gallery wall, and creates space to “sit down, read a book, have a drink.” Pennington’s purpose-driven approach is also the engine behind her latest venture, LP Ltd., a bespoke decoration service for couples curating their first home. Intended as a more thoughtful way to combine possessions than the randomly assembled registry, the launch adds beauty and cohesion to one’s home. “We’re not just buying furniture,” she says. “We’re establishing an atmosphere and a mood. Because it has to be personal.”

For Pennington, design is—and has always been—personal. A place where she finds herself by creating for others. These days, that’s Los Angeles, where the city’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle comes “naturally” to her. She has a pool, dogs, people running in and out of her house, beauty beyond the window. “It’s a very different place than Kentucky, of course, but I couldn’t imagine living someplace else.”

Art for Art’s Sake

Shockboxx spotlights local artists with the eclectic and unexpected

Written by Constance Dunn

Nestled amid the design studios and body shops of Cypress Avenue in Hermosa Beach is a gallery signaling a big step forward for the South Bay art scene. Opening its doors earlier this year, Shockboxx is the brainchild of artists Laura Schuler and Mike Collins, who saw a local need for just such an independent gallery. “There wasn’t an existing space for artists to show,” Schuler says of the duo’s decision to open the gallery. “There’s a really cool art scene in Hermosa Beach,” adds Collins. “And there’s a lot of artists in Hermosa, Manhattan, Redondo.” Lots of artists, but not many places where they can show their work to the local community.

After securing the location, the duo was undecided on its ultimate use. Studio space? Gallery? “As we started to do the buildout,” says Collins, “the space revealed itself to be a gallery more than a studio.” Located in the midst of the Beach Cities’ artistic-industrial-creative neighborhood known as Cypress District, Schuler and Collins enjoy free rein when it comes to doing what they want creatively. “We have the freedom to come up with whatever we want,” says Schuler, adding, “Our shows are very specific.”

Specific not just in theme but also in allowing artists, many of them colleagues, to stretch beyond their tried-and-true themes or mediums. “That’s the shock part of Shockboxx,” describes Collins. “We want the art community and the patrons to know that if you come to one of our shows, we’re not going to repeat ourselves.”

Indeed. Their first show, “Break the System,” invited Hermosa artists LG Givot and Josh Barnes to christen the place by painting the walls in vivid scenes. “Off with Their Heads” explored the concept of heroes and villains, inviting artists working in mediums ranging from computer art and assemblage to sculpture and photography. We stopped by during “Shark Week,” when the walls were covered by local artists’ takes on the fish.

Collins and Schuler ultimately aim for Shockboxx to go beyond the role of traditional gallery and be a creative community resource, including everything from film screenings, book releases and even underground dining events with local chefs. “The thing we’ll do over and over again is something different,” states Collins.

Note: Mark your calendars for Sept. 9, when Shockboxx opens an Ed Moses tribute show; inviting artists will pay homage to the trailblazing Venice artist’s brand of abstract painting. “Ed came from a group of artists that are credited with putting the Los Angeles art scene on the map in the late 50s and early 60s,” says Collins.




Artistic Vision

Santa Monica designer Christine Markatos Lowe creates au courant interiors with a classic touch 

Written by Jenn Thornton

“Work of art” might be considered a fairly rote turn of phrase these days, a maxim expressed from enthusiasm, but all too abundantly, it seems. Not everything is a work of art, surely. Unless you are interior designer Christine Markatos Lowe with a background in studio art, an M.F.A in Sculpture from the Art and Architecture School at the University of Pennsylvania, and mentorships with several industry giants—then you’re an artist whose work qualifies in earnest.

Trained in drawing, sculpture, and printmaking, it was Markatos Lowe’s transformative post-grad position in architect Peter Marino’s office that exposed her to a breadth of design she had never previously imagined. “I was hooked,” says Markatos Lowe, who spent several years with “Mr. Marino” before moving on to engagements at top design firms across the country, including that of White House designer Michael S. Smith, in Los Angeles. With a wealth of experience under her belt—and it must be said a great deal of confidence in her own vision— Markatos Lowe set up shop with her eponymous practice, Christine Markatos Design, which she founded in 2005. The Santa Monica-based firm now services clients on both coasts.

Bringing a bright, sensitive energy to her projects, Markatos Lowe visualizes elegant, expressive spaces. Hers is a perceptive aptitude; one potently applied, but filtered through a sophisticated eye. There’s the lovely sense of ease. Opposition and cohesion. The full run of color—using its spectrum, “from whisper soft to super saturated,” is a bedrock of her style. Each of Markatos Lowe’s designs, though singular, hinges on setting and sensibility. Does the project fit the client’s lifestyle? Is it appropriate to the architecture?

Primary to her approach is detail. “As an artist, I was taught to look at the entire composition, including the negative space rather than just the individual elements,” says Markatos Lowe, also a mother of two. “This point of view influences how I visualize my projects and ultimately edit the spaces.” Highlights of this lustrously designed array is a recently finished estate in Santa Monica; a residence at the Four Seasons Hualalai; a duplex in Greenwich Village; the Katherine Kidd Boutique in L.A; and the recent remodel of a 1940’s house in Malibu with sweeping views of the Pacific. Markatos Lowe also references an endeavor that taps into her penchant for palette; a home with a circular floor plan that allows for rooms surrounded by gardens, the colors of the which complement the hues of the rooms in “breathtaking” fashion.

With a rainbow of creative influences, Markatos Lowe says, “I find inspiration everywhere.” In fashion, fine art and form in nature. In the work of branded maximalists Tony Duquette and Renzo Mongiardino. And right outside the window. “To me, Southern California design is defined by the special quality of light and the lush landscape,” she says. “The projects I am most excited by allow me to play these assets off of each other in ways not possible in other geographic locations.” She’s made doing so an art.

Going Commercial

Real estate veteran Alexander Koustas spearheads The Agency’s new Commercial Advisory Board

Written by Wendy Bowman

When the co-founders of The Agency, Mauricio Umansky and Billy Rose, found that they were unable to serve their clients’ commercial transaction requirements, their solution was to form a new division to provide comprehensive commercial services, specializing in investment sales, landlord and tenant leasing representation, and strategic asset positioning— adding to the multibillion-dollar firm’s already thriving real estate brokerage and lifestyle practice.

Tapped to head The Agency Commercial Advisory, based in the company’s Beverly Hills headquarters, is industry veteran Alexander Koustas. Here, the skilled negotiator discusses the new division, L.A.’s up-and-coming commercial pockets and more.

Why is the time right to begin a new commercial division in Los Angeles?

With the emergence of L.A. on the global scene with respect to art, fashion and real estate, we believe now is the opportune time to be at the forefront of the commercial space.

What is your focus and goal with the new division?

To not only service our existing clientele base, but also to build a robust landlord and tenant representation platform to compete with the strongest commercial firms globally. The team will include seasoned professionals and leading real estate experts who bring together years of experience in various industry specialties— including development, asset management, investment sales and leasing.

Elaborate on the services the new division offers.

The merging of our respective strengths, coupled with The Agency’s global reach, makes for a truly dynamic and unparalleled partnership in the industry. As we continue to experience rapid growth in Los Angeles, commercial development and real estate ranks high for investors. In addition to being the provider for our clients and their commercial projects, the team will handle leasing, tenant representation and investment sales for office, industrial, retail, medical, special purpose, flex and multifamily spaces.

Tell us about your commercial background and what makes you a great fit to head the division?

I’ve spent years honing a craft in understanding the investment characteristics of commercial property. In my previous role, I was founding member and president of The December Company Inc., a boutique commercial brokerage firm specializing in high street retail, office and industrial leases and sales transactions. Prior to this post, I served as the acquisitions director for BH properties, where I was responsible for the deployment of $100 million in annual acquisitions throughout the Western U.S.; identifying distressed and value-added commercial investments for the company. With this experience, I have since moved into a purely brokerage role, which today enables me to see opportunities (or potential pitfalls) that may face my clients in a future lease or sales transaction. This unique skill set allows me to bring an unparalleled experience level to my clients and the company at large.

What are some of your top listings to date, and why are they significant?

4215 Admiralty Way is a prime waterfront building in Marina Del Rey with 1,400 feet of marina views, large windows and a loft-like ambience, perfect for an upscale restaurant or a unique tech office. 1360 S. Figueroa Blvd.—in the heart of Downtown L.A.— has more than 3,100 square feet of prime retail frontage across from the Los Angeles Convention Center and just minutes from the Staples Center and surrounding amenities. This area [is] part of a completely transforming live, work, play urban metropolis. 5215 Vineland Ave. is a 1,236-square foot mixed-use property in heart of the vibrant NoHo arts district, which is a young, trendy spot. This property has strong immediate demographics and access to robust multifamily density, along with a shared commercial parking lot.

What areas are hot in L.A. right now for commercial?

West Hollywood (always), Highland Park, Glendale/Burbank and Culver City. For example, in West Hollywood we’re seeing a demand for physical fitness use and restaurant space. In Glendale and Highland Park, we’ve seen an increased demand of and shift to upscale retail and boutiques. In Culver City, creative offices and showroom spaces are hot.

Are you seeing any trends in the market?

There’s a strong push towards creative office, open plan and warm contemporary office designs. The traditional office culture is changing the way people want to work and live. Inspired by the tech industry moving into the Westside of the city (Silicon Beach), the greater L.A. market is shifting to more open, bold cohesive work spaces.

Any predictions for what’s ahead for L.A.’s commercial industry?

Continued growth, with a particular push for architecturally efficient work and shopping environments. In addition to the hot areas mentioned earlier, we definitely will be seeing a continuing expansion of commercial retail into secondary and tertiary markets. Additionally, there is a continued movement of greater density in [A]-plus markets. We will see a continued trend in vertical development in high-density areas.

Finally, what does the new division mean for The Agency and L.A.?

As we continue to develop our foothold in L.A.’s commercial real estate market, The Agency is quickly becoming the leader in the industry for residential, new development and the commercial sectors. As L.A. continues to grow at a rapid pace, both commercial real estate and development is a leading investment for investors around the world. The Agency Commercial Advisory will further strengthen the brand and allow the team to be the provider for our clients and their commercial projects. We’re thrilled the commercial department is making a footprint in the city so quickly.

Material Culture

The artistic traditions of neighboring cultures collide in a new exhibition at LACMA

Written by Jenn Thornton

This September, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents its forthcoming exhibit, Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985 as part of the Getty’s Pacific Time Standard Time: LA/LA. The vibrant showcase of objects and ephemera from its focal provenances is, with broader consideration, a cultural exchange between domains with richly interlinked frontiers.

California and Mexico are irrevocably joined by geography, culture, and economics—ties that precede and transcend modern political borders,” say Found in Translation co-curators, Wendy Kaplan, department head and curator, and Staci Steinberger, assistant curator, both of the Decorative Arts and Design department at LACMA. “For centuries, people have moved back and forth between the two places, bringing objects, styles, and images whose meanings were shared as well as altered. [This] is the first exhibition to explore the full range of design and architecture dialogues between California and Mexico in this period.”

The show studies these interdependencies through the themes Spanish Colonial Inspiration, Pre-Hispanic Revivals, Folk Art and Craft Traditions, and Modernism. “All explore how in California and Mexico, design and architecture are strongly rooted in a sense of place, with local materials and traditions used to form a culture of specificity rather than an ‘international style,’” notes Kaplan. “And each found a more distinct voice through ‘translations’ of the other.”

Comprising the exhibit—a strong underscoring of LACMA’s dedication to Latin American art—are 250 pieces ranging from furniture, metalwork and ceramics to textiles, paintings, posters and more by 200-plus artists, architects, designers, and craftspeople. So rich in design and architectural discourse is this trove, Kaplan and

Steinberger find it difficult to play favorites. “In a show like this, it’s so difficult to choose!” say the curators, who nonetheless note a loan never before shown in the United States—a Bench from Casa Zuno, Guadalajara, c. 1925—as a piece of particular interest. Hailing from a house designed for José Guadalupe Zuno, once governor of the state of Jalisco, the bench was built right after the Mexican Revolution, when intellectuals championed neocolonial style as distinctly Mexican.

Though its design recalls furnishings from the Colonial period, it replaces religious iconography with socialist imagery. Found in Translation also surveys the ways that California artists, designers, and craftspeople embraced facets of Mexican folk art in their work; most surprisingly Japanese-American sculptor Ruth Asawa, known for her biomorphic hanging sculptures made from an intricate handmade mesh of wire loops, a basket making technique she learned in Toluca. “Asawa’s use of the loop is transformative,” explain the curators. “She took a utilitarian structure and made a wholly original, purely abstract body of work. The example we’re borrowing for the show comes from the collection of visionary architect Buckminster Fuller, who was one of Asawa’s teachers.”

Also of interest is material from the Summer Olympics in Mexico City (1968) and Los Angeles (1984). As sprawling metropolises, both cities employed a similar design strategy and used environmental graphics to visually unify the many Olympic sites. Look for posters, a map, a fabulous hostess dress from Mexico City and posters and sonotubes (supersized painted cardboard tubes) from L.A. In other words—or en otras palabras—the best of both worlds.

Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985 will run from September 17 through April 18, 2018.

A Creative Call

From Frank Gehry to (fer) studio, L.A. architect Christopher Mercier is an urban renaissance man

Written by Jenn Thornton

Architect Christopher Mercier, AIA, wasn’t always the man with a master plan. As a teenager in his native Detroit, he wrestled with the future. A painter, Mercier leaned toward a career in the arts, but was pragmatic enough to consider the bigger picture while still in high school. “I thought, if I become an artist, there’s only so many things I can do, but if I become an architect, I can still do art.” At the intersection of profession and passion was Mercier’s métier.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Mercier went on to a progressive architecture program in Italy (under a then lesser-known architect Daniel Libeskind), a master’s degree at SCI-Arc and, in the most glaring endorsement of his talent, a spot at Gehry Partners, his place of employment for 10 years, until he departed the dream post in 2002 to establish his own architectural practice, with a modicum of trepidation at the time.

“I mean, it’s hard to leave that,” Mercier admits. “You’re working on these incredible projects, all over the world, and with great teams of people. It’s just a really hard thing to move away from.” When he did, Mercier met the full gravity of his decision. “I went from working on the biodiversity museum in Panama [Biomuseo] to literally designing bathrooms and closets,” he says, laughing. “It was humbling and crushing.” In those early but ultimately edifying days, even name-dropping

“Frank Gehry” into conversation didn’t prove particularly pivotal. “Most of my clients at the time didn’t know who he was,” says Mercier.

“I thought, what did I do? I’ve got to go back. But you learn quickly how to hustle, how to get work, how to make connections.” Today, Mercier’s gamble is L.A.’s gain. Informed by the principles Form, Environment, Research, his (fer) studio, located in an artist compound in Inglewood, is both full-service and fertile.

In conceptualizing modern spaces for creative clients, the studio’s architectural solutions are environmentally sensitive, heavily (but not solely) adaptive reuse, and across multiple sectors.

Its designed residences in communities such as Venice Beach, Santa Monica and the Hollywood Hills; commercial projects including Smashbox Studios in Culver City, a lobby and reception area for Hana Financial in DTLA, and restaurants Father’s Office, Connie and Ted’s and Downtown newcomer, Officine Brera, a modern Italian restaurant set in a 1920’s industrial warehouse.

Also completed is The Hayden, a 30,000-square-foot creative office adaptive reuse project in the Hayden Tract of Culver City.

Currently in development is a new public plaza behind The Broad, a temporary space that will connect to Otium Restaurant; the new pedestrian bridge at 2nd/Hope Station that will link the stopover to The Broad by way of its plaza; and the large-scale Cedros Market, a 100,000-square-foot retail, restaurant and office solution space in Solana Beach meant to accommodate expected growth in transit ridership while maintaining the community’s character.

Given Mercier’s background as an artist, his engagement with creative spaces is a logical focus, as is being a vital part of the urban renewal in Inglewood. Among his involvements here are painting art murals with at-risk youth, one can be found at Roger’s Park. “We’ve made a lot of efforts to work with the city,” Mercier says. “You want to engage with the community as much as you can, and give back.”

With a full docket of projects, Mercier is giving plenty these days, including painting regularly in his art studio and playing hockey with former colleagues at Gehry Partners.

“It’s how you progress as an architect,” he says. “You’re always thinking about the next big thing.”


The Art of Preservation

The Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program upholds our rich artistic tradition

Written by Jenn Thornton

In considering all that ancient places articulate—from beauty, identity and memory to community, continuity and a sense of the sacred—one must contemplate the world without them. It’s a disorienting idea, this absence of fundamental attachment. A kind of cultural dislocation, as we are, principally, in and of place.

“We were born into place, and we live all our lives in place,” explains Thomas Mayes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Where we are born and live has a tremendous impact on our lives. Artists are often keenly aware of this connection, even if not consciously, and I think you can read that connection at artists’ homes and studios.”

Of the buildings in this singular category, some of the most culturally significant are part of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios (HAHS) program, which developed out of an initiative proposed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1999 to recognize architecture not directly under its umbrella that nonetheless was making valuable contributions to the preservation of its buildings and collections. With financial support from the Henry Luce Foundation and Wyeth Foundation for American Art; the formation of an expert advisory committee to establish rigorous guidelines for membership; and the appointment of a full-time program manager to expand the program for the public and consortium members, HAHS now operates as a coalition of 36 “associate sites” of the Trust, all former homes and studios of American artists. HAHS represents an even greater number of artists, however. Two properties in the program—the Bush-Holley House and the Florence Griswold Museum, both in Connecticut—served as art colonies for multiple Impressionist painters, for example, while the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in New York was home to two Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. Collectively, HAHS sites work in partnership on a scope of mutual issues, from preservation to promotion.

“What’s really important about these places is that they represent not just the history of one person,” says HAHS Program Manager Valerie Balint. “It’s the history of us.” Like art itself, this essential humanness, in all its complications and elegance, bridge most every divide. HAHS, therefore, might be looked at as a composite response to America’s rich artistic culture. Its properties represent artists from different eras, artistic styles and backgrounds. Names are both known and unknown, artwork ranges from traditional painting and sculpture to the craft tradition, woodworking and beyond. The artists who created this work are “part of the creation of national identity,” adds Balint.

Reinforcing this idea is HAHS’ nationwide reach, with its sites stretching east to west. This includes where the program is administered—Chesterwood, the home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French. In New York, there’s the ornamental Olana, with its grand, rambling landscape, home of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church, and the heavily wooded Manitoga, belonging to mid-century modern industrial designer Russel Wright. Out west, in Great Falls, Montana, is the C.M. Russell Museum (the first such institution dedicated to western art), featuring the Charles Marion Russell House and Studio, as well as the Alta Loma, California site, the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, dedicated to woodworker Sam Maloof, maker of California Modern furniture.

Despite immense differences in geography and architectural vernacular, every artist’s home and studio is a deeply personal place, but unified in that each is what Balint describes as an “incubator for ideas” that taps into the “human impulse to create and express.” Indeed, sites also function as an excavation into the creative process; visitors are privy to the same scenes and tools of the artists for an intimate sense of what they saw, how they felt, and the depth of their labor.

“This is very different than what you see in a museum, which is what I call the output—the end of a physical and intellectual process,” says Balint, “where you tend to be removed from the person who made it. These environments offer an immersive experience.”

One where the rich specificity of a space forms a fuller, more illustrative picture of the artist as both creative and creator. Where a museum tends to support a static experience, the artist studio is a place where the past is not something embalmed, but always and engagingly of the present.

Offers Mayes, “These homes and studios are important for today, for what we can learn, and how we can be inspired. I love it when these places of creativity continue their creative legacy and are used to inspire new work in the present. That’s really their greatest power—to give us insight [into] who we were and who we are, and to inspire us in who we may become.” A creative force for generations to come.

Its a Wonderful Tour

The 2017 Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts is set at the revered home of Samuel Hinds

Written by Wendy Bowman

Where can you find a powder room that doubles as an art installation with antique glass tiles and floral-and-striped wallpaper; a high-tech media room highlighted by a custom-painted ceiling mural and petite wine room hidden within a closet; and a nursery showcasing a handmade macramé baby swing and puppet theater? All under one roof, at the 53rd annual Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, one of the country’s oldest and largest home and garden tours.

Running through May 21, this year’s tour features a stately English Tudor-style home that has been completely redone by more than 20 of the area’s top interior and exterior designers using the latest color trends, concepts, products, and technology. Visitors also can peruse boutiques featuring 22 curated merchants from throughout California offering a wide range of items, including jewelry, linens, gourmet food, clothing and gifts, and also enjoy everything from gourmet sandwiches to mini-pizzas at The Wisteria Terrace Restaurant and Ivy Court.

Designed by noted architectural firm Marston & Van Pelt, the home was built in 1916 for $25,000 for lawyer-turned-actor Samuel Hinds (best known for his role as Peter Bailey in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life) and his wife. Most recently, the residence has hosted several movies and TV shows, including La La Land (its loggia and garden backdropped the garden party where Ryan Gosling’s character played the piano); Beaches (as the home of Barbara Hershey’s character); and the 1985 version of Alice in Wonderland, along with episodes of Mad Men and Parks and Recreation.

“One of the reasons this house is so special is that it’s never been a Showcase House before,” says Dana Marevich, the tour’s 2017 benefit chair. “Additionally, this house is surrounded by mature trees. You can’t see it from the street, so a lot and people are very curious to view the inside of the home.” Visitors to the residence will find more than 7,000 square feet of living space including six bedrooms, six baths, a living room, library, dining room, conservatory, kitchen, laundry room, servants’ quarters and enclosed sleeping porch. Outdoors, 2 acres of park-like grounds feature numerous rose bushes, an arbor, more than 100 trees of various species, a small stream with waterfall and footbridge, along with a pool, badminton court and plentiful seating areas.

Those seeking design ideas will find inspiration in areas such as a teen bedroom decorated with endless shades of gray to create a monochromatic glam-rock vibe; a light and airy kitchen outfitted with an exquisite china hutch adorned with beautiful carvings; and an elegant, modern dining room crowned by a twisted Venetian glass chandelier. The loggia is one of the estate’s most picturesque locales, complete with a palette of navy and peacock blue, with gold accents, aged patina ceiling and romantic sheers. Parking and complimentary shuttle service for this year’s tour available at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Tickets are $35-$45, with proceeds going to local music and arts programs.

For more information, call 714.442.3872

or visit

Architect by Day, Artist Always

Dan Janotta flexes his multi-media creative muscle at his new Pier Avenue gallery

Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Paul Jonason

It’s a strange idea that a creative person must work in a single lane; confine oneself to producing paintings, sculptures or other works in a single discipline. It’s a concept certainly not adhered to by Dan Janotta, whose output includes paintings, furniture and home decor—when he’s not designing buildings. “See those models?” the artist asks while sitting behind the desk in his new Hermosa Beach gallery, pointing to a series of crisp-white 3D architectural models that rest along the counter. “That’s what I do during the day. I design high rises.” A senior design architect who’s been with the same Los Angeles firm for 30 years, Janotta recounts exploring furniture design in the early 1990s and, for a brief spell, having a store where he sold his works. “It’s like designing a building,” Janotta says of the discipline. “You have to come up with a concept. You have to figure out how the measurements work.” Then there are materials, engineering, and so forth. About a dozen years later, Janotta expanded his creative repertoire by painting—first watercolors, then acrylics, now oil. “It’s a contrast to what I do at work,” he says, citing the painstaking detail and precision, not to mention long computer hours, work with clients, and creative compromise of his profession. “When I paint it’s just me and the canvas. A different creative energy.”

To showcase his works on his terms, Janotta (who’s lived in both California and Florida for many years, and currently resides in Marina del Rey) recently opened a sunny, intimate gallery amid a new cluster of boutiques that line Pier Avenue, a block or two from where the street meets the beach. Much of the walls are given over to Janotta’s canvases—oil paintings depicting the surf-meets-sidewalk sensibilities of current-day Los Angeles, with plenty of beach scenes and cityscapes. “I like to bring architectural influence to beach scenes and surfing,” says Janotta, referencing perspective, color and composition, where his formal design background comes into play most prominently.

There’s also a revolving display of his furniture designs, including a birch plywood coffee table with part of an airplane wing in its center, and a Hawaiian shirt lamp—where a starched, antique shirt cloaks a lamp poised on a Koa wood base, with a fishing lure switch dangling below. Home accessories range from printed pillows to lamps. Janotta designs some items; all are selected to be consistent visually: geometric, un-ornamental and influenced by the clean lines and patterns he works with in his architectural practice.

The gallery, opened in January, is the ideal vehicle for the entrepreneurial-minded artist to exercise control over how his works are marketed and displayed. “It’s better from a business point of view and from a creative point of view,” says Janotta, who can freely choose what he wants to showcase and, creatively unconstrained, can usually be found painting away at his gallery on Saturday afternoons, his easel set up inside or on the sidewalk. “It’s satisfying to have everything in one place so it explains the whole story, from painting to furniture to other designs. It’s a one-stop shop.”



310.504.0026 | JANOTTADESIGN.COM

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