Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
SoCal Update

SoCal Update

Start watching
a large damn with graffiti of a woman with a hammer on it, mountains in the background

Earth Focus Presents

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (Belgium)

Start watching
Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

The Impermanent Architecture at California-Pacific Triennial

"Clubhouse Turn – Clubhouse Mezzanine, 2013–16" Archival pigment print with artist’s frame | Michele Asselin OCMA Triennial
Support Provided By

Architecture has been nobly described as the enduring art of making the content and forms of a civilization coincide but in “Building As Ever,” the second California-Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), the focus is on its more everyday nature and the unstoppable vitality of change.

On view through September 3, “Building As Ever” is an ambitious survey of 25 artist projects whose works tackle open-ended questions of placemaking, history, obsolescence, memory, and, of course, building. Organized by curator Cassandra Coblentz, who worked closely with artists and commissioned numerous site-specific projects during her seven-year tenure at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, the triennial has directly considered OCMA’s real estate predicament in producing the exhibition.

“Common Ground,” transforms a gallery floor into an interactive sonic game board | Julian Day and Luke Jaaniste OCMA Triennial
Julian Day and Luke Jaaniste's “Common Ground,” transforms a gallery floor into an interactive sonic game board | Courtesy of the artists

In his foreword to the exhibition catalog, OCMA Director Todd D. Smith diplomatically addresses the impending destruction of the museum’s long-time base (there are plans to sell the property and re-locate to build anew at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in nearby Costa Mesa). “We contemplated how best to carry forward the biennial/triennial tradition,” reflects Smith, delicately skirting the issue of when the move might occur and whether the Thom Mayne-designed proposal is still in the picture. “We grew increasingly unable to separate this project from the larger situation in which the museum finds itself.”

OCMA has, since its inception as the Newport Harbor Museum, existed in a rather mutable state of architectural flux. The museum surfaced in 1977 like a cultural atoll alongside Fashion Island, the 600-plus-acre masterplanned community developed by the Irvine Company (with architects William Pereira and Associates). Constructed on two spare acres donated by the developers, the museum’s T-shaped configuration features three low-slung pavilions with corrugated concrete façades; the Brutalist design, the era’s favored civic style, was also provided gratis by Langdon and Wilson Architects, a Los Angeles and Newport Beach-based firm perhaps best known for creating the J.Paul Getty Museum’s ancient Roman villa in Malibu. By the 1980s, OCMA’s permanent collection and institutional vision (“a destination museum that is locally relevant and internationally significant”) had outgrown their original building and relocation plans began to steadily percolate. As Los Angeles Times critic Carolina Miranda quipped parenthetically in her thorough and thoroughly enjoyable roundup of the museum’s architectural affairs: “(Reading all the vintage clips on this is like reading the treatment for some 1980s episode of ‘Dynasty: Orange County Architecture Edition.’ In other words: totally worth it.)”

“Building As Ever” addresses architecture as a curatorial premise, subject, and even art-making material in works that range from participatory actions and interventions to large-format photographs and sculpture: “Common Ground,” by Julian Day and Luke Jaaniste, a collaborative performance team from Australia, utilizes cups, saucers and audience participation to transform a gallery floor into an interactive sonic game board; operating at the crossroads of art, architecture and archeology, Leyla Cardenas cuts into the museum wall to reveal fragments of an anticipated urban ruin; Michele Asselin’s darkly beautiful photographs of the Hollywood Park Clubhouse (built 1938; demolished 2015) offer cinematic chiaroscuro renderings of abandoned interiors and displaced characters; and continuing in the tradition of the late minimalist sculptor Fred Sandback, Cybele Lyle’s spare wooden sculptures employ reductive strategies to incise space and alter perception.  

 "Clubhouse Turn – Clubhouse Mezzanine, 2013–16" Archival pigment print with artist’s frame | Michele Asselin OCMA Triennial
"Clubhouse Turn – Clubhouse Mezzanine, 2013–16" by Michele Asselin. Archival pigment print with artist’s frame | Courtesy of the artist
"OCMA Stratigraphy, 2017" by Leyla Cárdenas cuts into the museum walls | Courtesy of the artist OCMA Triennial
"OCMA Stratigraphy, 2017" by Leyla Cárdenas cuts into the museum walls | Courtesy of the artist

In this current Triennial, art surrounds, inhabits and confronts the museum. Flanking the building’s main entrance, Bryony Roberts has installed “Imprint” in the industrial modern windows. A 1:1 fiberglass resin cast of the museum’s rippling façade, “Imprint” functions like a haunting cover version, the original’s rugged texture is unexpectedly delivered in a softly glowing fashion; backlit by the sun, the translucent cast shimmers and the museum logo printed on the window beneath is faintly visible, floating like a shadow glimpsed in a rearview mirror.

Patricia Fernandez's "And Still (facing north), 2017" concretizes the Parisian bookshop and printing press that served as a meeting place for radical Spanish students during the 1960s | Courtesy of the artist OCMA Triennial
Patricia Fernandez's "And Still (facing north), 2017" concretizes the Parisian bookshop and printing press that served as a meeting place for radical Spanish students during the 1960s | Courtesy of the artist

Alongside the museum visitor’s desk in the lobby, Olga Koumoundouros has installed a newly-commissioned work: three blown-glass objects are incorporated into metal stanchions and each transparent organic shape houses quotidian relics — a bit of asphalt, a pair of archival gloves. Koumoundouros’s work developed out of a sort of conceptual reconnaissance mission: after studying the life of OCMA’s building and listening to morphing reminiscences, she created these commemorative objects to honor both collective experience and one individual whose knowledge of the museum had been both intimate and encyclopedic.

Throughout the show, questions about memory — its insistence, vagaries, loss and recovery—have been smartly articulated and given form. When Patricia Fernandez set out to research Ruedo Iberico, the Parisian bookshop and printing press that served as a meeting place for radical Spanish students during the 1960s, she steadily mapped its previously unrecorded history through correspondence, personal accounts, objects and intuition. Distilling her research, Fernandez produced a series of images and objects – including a wooden spiral staircase and exquisite watercolors — that incisively evoke that very particular time and place. 

The persistence of cultural memory is also strongly evident in the work of Beatriz Cortez, an artist and cultural critic. In “The Lakota Porch: A Time Traveler,” she reimagines an existent California Craftsman porch, a domestic social space constructed from wood and local river rock. Built 100 years ago by Dan Montelongo, an Apache Mescalero master stoneworker, it is now owned by a Lakota woman. In Cortez’s contemporary version, welded sheet metal has been used to recreate the original hand-built porch, acknowledging the past and envisaging a future.

At the heart of most all the works featured in “Building As Ever” is a shared desire to pursue questions about how the built environment shapes contemporary experience and influences recorded history. In Ken Ehrlich’s on-going project about Donald Wilber (1907-1997), a scholar of ancient Persian architecture and the CIA agent credited as the “architect” of the 1953 Iranian coup (a Cold War strategy designed to secure British and American oil interests in the region), the artist composes a dialogue between Wilber’s two linked but divergent professions through a series of drawings and laser-cut archival photographs. Where each letter of Wilber’s CIA report appears, the paper has been evaporated, leaving only hollowed out words atop images of Persian Gardens and ornate ruins.

Measured in terms of architectural eras, Southern California is still young. During the last century, however, recurrent cycles of building booms have continually altered the California landscape, expanding suburban sprawl and reinventing urban areas. Alex Slade’s large format photographs provide a stunning record of the rapid architectural changes occurring now in downtown Los Angeles. There’s a futuristic quality to these scenes of vertiginous glass towers that seem to sprout up overnight, overshadowing even the recent architectural past, and casting earlier building efforts into ruins; but there is also a quiet formality, an almost 19th century gaze that pauses to capture this fleeting moment and the uninflected Western light.

Vito Acconci once observed that “The beautiful thing about architecture, it does have the anticipation of renovation always built into it, which I find so refreshing from art because art is supposed to be unchangeable. The only things that are unchangeable are tombstones.”  

"The Lakota Porch: A Time Traveler, 2017" by Beatriz Cortez. Welded steel and sheet metal | Ryan Miller OCMA Triennial
"The Lakota Porch: A Time Traveler, 2017" by Beatriz Cortez. Welded steel and sheet metal | Ryan Miller
"4th and Flower, Crane, Regional Connector Transit Project, Flower St. Decking, L.A. Metro (Total Project Budget $1.55 Billion), 2016" by Alex Slade | Courtesy of the artist OCMA Triennial
"4th and Flower, Crane, Regional Connector Transit Project, Flower St. Decking, L.A. Metro (Total Project Budget $1.55 Billion), 2016" by Alex Slade | Courtesy of the artist
"Imprint, 2017" by Bryony Roberts | Courtesy of the artist OCMA Triennial
"Imprint, 2017" by Bryony Roberts | Courtesy of the artist OCMA Triennial

Top Image: "Clubhouse Turn – Clubhouse Mezzanine, 2013–16" by Michele Asselin | Courtesy of the artist

Like this story? Sign up for our newsletter to get unique arts & culture stories and videos from across Southern California in your inbox. Also, follow Artbound on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

 

Support Provided By
Read More
A mural showing Frederick Douglass in the middle, flanked by an African American man holding an African American child on one side and a Black soldiers and slaves on the other side.

12 SoCal Public Art Projects That Explore Race and Marginalized Histories

In an era where many old monuments are being torn down and history is being rewritten, learn how public art rooted in inclusivity can help right the wrongs of history.
A band, composed of (from left to right) a guitarist, a bassist, a singer, a trumpet player and a saxophone player, performs on a stage. They're all wearing suit jackets and playing their respective instruments. The singer in the middle is pointing out to a crowd. Behind them are neon pink and yellow lights that provide a hazy glow in the backdrop.

Southern California's Role in Soul Music's Major Revival

Though the artists at Brooklyn-based record label Daptone Records shaped and led the soul music revival through the turn of the century, a handful of artists in Southern California were also hard at work placing their own stamp in the growing scene.
Different types of piñatas are on display in white vitrines or hung on the ceiling and walls.

New Piñata Exhibit Is the First of Its Kind in L.A.

There has never been a piñata exhibit in L.A. until now. A new exhibit at Craft in America celebrates the art of this beloved Latinx cultural icon.