Everything Loose Will Land
Everything Loose Will Land explores the intersection between architecture and other visual arts in Los Angeles during the 1970s. Reframing Frank Lloyd Wright's famous quip, “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles,” the exhibition demonstrates that rather than merely abject, this infamous looseness dislodged the arts from their separate habits, realigning and ultimately redefining cultural practices and their relationship to the city. If the 1950s in Los Angeles were characterized by the city’s need to establish its establishment and by the arts’ commitment to notions of medium specificity, the 1980s were shaped by a virtually unbounded market and robust institution building that encouraged all the arts to focus on themselves and their individual advancement. Both periods, in other words, structured the arts as autonomous and even competitive activities. But in the 15 or so years in between, after the Watts riots shook the city’s core and before the construction of such institutions as MOCA or monuments as Disney Hall asserted the city’s cultural self- confidence, slippery convergences in the ways art and architecture were made and in the understanding of for whom and why they were made yielded profound changes in virtually every aspect of what then came to be called the built environment. Even though an interest in art is often considered a primary feature of the so-called LA School of Architecture, the 1970s reveals as many misunderstandings and conflicts as it does traditional forms of collaboration between art and architecture, the net result of which was to call into question these very categories. The peculiar institutional, geographical and social looseness of LA contributed to the rise of this specific ecology, but its impact was to restructure
the cultural landscape itself.
The exhibition is organized around the three primary means by which architecture found itself in unprecedented if at times inadvertent contact with other artistic practices: overlaps in their working methods, the conversion of their respective viewers and clients into users and in their response to the collapse of utopianism under the obdurate weight of social and ecological conflict. Because broad historical forces shaped each of these categories, Procedures, Users and Environment, they resonate with developments elsewhere, yet the specific ways they unfolded in Los Angeles were also informed by particular features of the city.
The history of classification amongst the various arts includes not only parallel formal or theoretical interests but the cultural and technical geography of spaces, modes of production and divisions of labor. It was precisely the nexus of these structures that changed in the late 1960s when a new intimacy between architects and artists arose as individuals shared workspaces, neighborhoods and institutions as well as more and more instruments and protocols for making work. Artists began to engage their studios as architecture through adaptive reuse and installation design, scavenged buildings and their components as material for what became increasingly difficult to refer to as sculpture, used photography as a form of urban analysis, and began to draw, model and write proposals for work manufactured by others or not at all. In other words, artists began to operate as architects. Architects, in contrast, began to produce a whole array of objects that were independent of the building process, were ultimately displayed in galleries, engaged new media and modes of representation and were grounded in conceptual rather than practical concerns. In other words, architects began to operate as artists. By examining such things as the projective drawing, systems for the assembly of parts and components, as well as the commercial tools, industrial materials and new photographic methods that suddenly began to be used by artists and architects alike, Procedures emphasizes operations that cut across disciplines and the ways in new values and questions emerged as these procedures shifted place.
The reception of works of architecture and art at mid-century focused on visitors to museums and inhabitants of houses, viewers, clients and collectors, abstract categories that, together, were thought to constitute the public sphere. All of these groups were understood to receive culture as given and to use a purely optical register of attention as their primary receptor, playing virtually no role in production and leaving the object of art or architecture and the receiving subject distinct. In the wake of the Watts Riots, demonstrations against the Vietnam War and what we generally understand as the political culture of the ‘1960s,’ this passivity was transformed into action and the abstractions of the public were challenged by insistence on social specificity at every turn. The impact of these developments on architecture was the reconceptualization of its audience into a social body constituted by agents and participants, voluntary as well as reluctanct, not only in the shaping of the meaning of buildings but also in their very construction. Rather than merely inhabit a building or a city, the subject of architecture became he or she who occupied, assembled, arranged, decorated and redesigned the world as received, ultimately undoing the very distinction between subject and object. And as people became users rather than viewers, buildings became tools for social change. The dynamic interaction between recently recognized historical subjects, such as women, people of color and cultural workers, on the one hand, and the city and its components reconceived as raw material on the other, made what then came to be called the architectural user the new model for how to engage works of art, and brought together artists, citizen groups, planners and activists for the first time. Users features projects that attest to how members of the DIY movement, drop-outs and post-studio artists, each with their saws, hammers and studs, each working on, against and through building, all became architects even if only temporarily.
If utopia was the fundamental spatial concept for modern architects, this ideal and empty terrain
came to be increasingly sullied by acts of disobedience, the pollutants of industrial culture and the visual and information overload associated with rapid urban development and mass media. Not only did these changes lead to a new understanding of the complexity of the city but they led away from attachments to the purity of philosophical space and towards more direct engagement with the varied and fragile interrelations that yield environments instead. Because of architecture’s conventional obligation to consider site and context, what increasingly came to be referred to as the built environment became the locus for broader thinking about the situational embeddedness of all cultural products. Schemes exploring alternative urbanisms, installations making rooms for art but without typical forms of architecture, and misusing building by inserting new programs in old structures gave art and architecture not a spatial identity but an emergent environmental dynamic. These at first alien ecologies required distinct forms of documentation, representation and an entirely new repertoire of techniques to render them navigable and visualizable. Evidence for the importance of these development lies in the fact that during the 1970s, Los Angeles became not merely a place of and for making work but an object of study at the same time, leading to an outpouring of texts about the city and a growing interest in the mutually constitutive rapport between architectural objects and the realms around them. From novel ways of mapping the city to reflections of dystopian concerns and even to the redefinition of the city as a product of what a group of artists, architects, planners and business entrepreneurs called ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNICATIONS, Environment explores work that invented the specific types of habitability that landed loosely at first in Los Angeles.
The exhibition will include drawings, photographs, media works, sculpture, prototypes, models, and ephemera. Projects by Carl Andre, Ed Moses, Peter Alexander, Michael Asher, James Turell, Maria Nordman, Robert Irwin, Frank Gehry, Richard Serra, Coy Howard, Craig Elwood, Peter Pearce, Morphosis, Bruce Nauman, Craig Hodgetts, Jeff Raskin, Ed Ruscha, Judy Chicago, Feminist Studio Workshop, Miriam Shapiro, Alison Knowles, Robert Kennard, Leonard Koren, Studio Works, Noah Purifoy, Paolo Soleri, Ray Kappe, Denise Scott Brown, Archigram, L.A. Fine Arts Squad, Bernard Tschumi, Eleanor Antin, Peter Kamnitzer, Cesar Pelli, Andrew Holmes, Elizabeth Orr, and others will be explored and on view.
Everything Loose Will Land is supported by a grant from the Getty Foundation. It is part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., a set of exhibitions and programs held at institutions in and around Los Angeles beginning in April, 2013.
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