Thursday, January 2, 2014

Brett Weston's Smokestacks and Pylons, 1927

(Click on images to enlarge)
Weston, Brett, "Stacks," 1927, gelatin silver print, 3-7/8 x 3 in. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From Brett Weston Photographs: 1925-1930 and 1980-1982, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1983, p. 7.

While researching for my upcoming book "The Schindlers and the Westons: An Avant-Garde Friendship" I have run across numerous publications of Brett Weston's industrial image "Stacks." To this day the striking image is often inaccurately credited to his father due to the similarities with Edward's 1922 ARMCO Steel images (see below for example). Brett's intriguing 1927 photo was made at the tender age of 16 and was obviously inspired by Edward's earlier work. I recently discovered that the location of these smokestacks appears to have been the Alameda Steam Generating Plant at Alameda and Banning Sts. in San Pedro (see two below). Weston referenced taking photographs at an iron foundry in his December 7, 1927 Daybooks entry which he could have mistaken the power plant for.

Weston, Edward, ARMCO Steel, 1922. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Alameda Steam Generating Plant, Alameda and Banning Sts., San Pedro, 1930s. Photographer unknown. From Water and Power Associates.

Alameda Steam Generating Plant, Alameda and Banning Sts., San Pedro, 1930s. Photographer unknown. From Water and Power Associates.

"Factory Pipes," ca. 1927, Johan Hagemeyer. Courtesy UC-Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

"Factory Pipes," ca. 1927, Johan Hagemeyer. Courtesy UC-Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

In mid-January 1928 Johan Hagemeyer visited Weston for the first time since his return from Mexico a year earlier. Johan's above images were apparently taken at the same location as Brett's photo evidencing his indelible memory of Edward's ARMCO work discussed later below. Hagemeyer also undoubtedly viewed Brett's and Edward's recent work during his five-day visit. Thus Johan and Brett almost certainly visited and photographed this site together during his stay. (Daybooks, January 15, 1928). Brett's striking multiple exposure composition favorably compares with Johan's, clearly illustrating his rapid artistic progress. I have found no record to date of Johan's image having been exhibited or published.

Although Edward's "Pipes and Stacks" (see below) was included in an exhibition of 102 of his prints, Brett's "Stacks" was not among the 18 prints he selected for their group show at the Los Angeles Museum in Exposition Park in October of 1927. This seemingly indicates that he had not as yet captured the image. ("Park Museum to Display New Art," Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1927, p. 7). The photo was however likely included in a show the following year at UC-Southern Branch arranged by another Schindler-Weston circle intimate Barbara Morgan. (For more on this see my "Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism." For much more on Barbara Morgan and her Schindler-Weston circle of friends see my "Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence: Kings Road, Olive Hilland Carmel")

"Pipes and Stacks," ARMCO Steel, 1922. Edward Weston. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Weston diarized his much looked forward to November 1922 visitation with photographer/gallerist Alfred Stieglitz and subsequent studio visit with painter/photographer Charles Sheeler just weeks after taking his now iconic ARMCO photos (see above) while visiting his sister in Ohio on the way to New York. 
"Treat anything you undertake with dignity, a portrait or a box of matches. If I were [still] publishing Camera Work I would ask you for this breast, these torsoes and these smoke-stacks. ... Stieglitz looking at my steel works photos had said "You should see Sheeler's work," and then in the same breath "No, it is not necessary." But I concluded to go - and I am happy that I did. His photographs are a remarkable "portrait" of New York, the finest architectural photographs I have seen." (Daybooks I, Notes from N. Y. Nov. 1922, p. 6).
On a second visit to Stieglitz's studio Georgia O'Keeffe responded, "These stacks too are very fine, they remind me of the paintings of... (can't remember name) do you know them?" I did not." (Daybooks I, p. 6). 

A few months later Weston chronicled his close friend Johan Hagemeyer's comments, 
"I gave him a print of my "Stacks" - "I have never before demanded a print from you Edward, - but I must have a copy of that" - He would return again and again to it - "It is a thing I wish I had made - but I'm glad you did it for me to enjoy - for I feel I could have done it." (Daybooks I, April 25, 1923, pp. 9-10).

Weston, Edward, "Smokestacks" or "Steel" Irradiador, No. 3, November 1923. Image courtesy of the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Jean Charlot Collection.

Edward's and Tina Modotti's rapid immersion into the Mexico City arts scene shortly after their arrival in 1923 soon resulted in his striking "Smokestacks" gracing the cover of Irradiador, the organ for the short-lived Mexican avant-garde Estridentismo Movement whose motto promised, "Will make reactionaries lose sleep, and will affirm all the anxieties of the present hour." (From Letters Alive.). The same image also appeared on the November 19, 1926 cover of Der Welt Spiegel. (Per Weston bibliographer Paula Freedman).

Sheeler, Charles, Power House No. 1 - Ford Plant, 1927. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Lane Collection.

Perhaps with Weston's ARMCO prints still ingrained into his subconscious memory, Sheeler captured some very similar images during an autumn 1927 Ford Motor Company commission to photograph it's new Albert Khan-designed Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan (see above for example). With the launch of the new Model A, automobile production began at "The Rouge" that same year. Sheeler's Rouge commission was part of a $1.3 million advertising campaign to generate excitement and public interest in a new modern automobile and the powerful new plant. Sheeler's Rouge Plant portfolio from this commission clearly provided inspiration to Diego Rivera, Edward and Brett's 1923-26 Mexican sojourn amigo, during the creation of his 1932-3 "Detroit Industry" murals at the Art Institute of Detroit (see below) as Sheeler's Rouge portfolio was in Frida Kahlo's private photo collection. (See Frida Kahlo: Her Photos edited by Pablo Ortiz Moasterio, Editorial RM, 2010, pp. 506-517 for the Sheeler Rouge photos in her private photo collection.). (Author's note: Rivera became deeply entwined in the Weston-Schindler-Neutra-Scheyer circle through his 1923-6 Mexican connections with Weston, his exhibition collaborations with Galka Scheyer and his San Francisco mural connections. Among Rivera's numerous mural assistants on both sides of the border were also many mutual Schindler-Weston friends and lovers. I am planning a future article on this so stay tuned.)

Diego Rivera at work on "Detroit Industry" at the Detroit Institute of Arts, ca. 1932.

Smokestacks, Ford Factory, Detroit, Michigan, 1926. Photo by E. O. Hoppe. From E. O. Hoppe's Amerika, Modernist Photographs from the 1920s by Philip Prodger, Curatorial Assistance and Norton, New York, 2007, p. 111. (Originally published in Hoppe's Romantic America, 1927).

Fascinatingly, the German-born British photographer E. O Hoppe also visited the Rouge Plant in 1926 and photographed the same stacks and conveyors that Sheeler iconized the following year (see above and below). This begs the questions as to whether Hoppe had viewed Weston's previously published ARMCO cover of Der Welt Spiegel and/or whether Sheeler may also have seen Hoppe's work in his Romantic America published in 1927 before undertaking his Rouge commission. It seems likely as their camera positions for the Rouge smokestacks is almost identical. Rivera had not likely seen Hoppe's work as there were none of his Rouge images in Frida's collection as there were Sheeler's.

Ford Factory, Detroit, Michigan, 1926. Photo by E. O. Hoppe. From E. O. Hoppe's Amerika, Modernist Photographs from the 1920s by Philip Prodger, Curatorial Assistance and Norton, New York, 2007, p. 110. (Originally published in Hoppe's Romantic America, 1927).

Through Edward's contacts with Schindler partner and Kings Road tenant Richard Neutra, a version of Brett's "Stacks" was definitely included along with 18 of his photos and 20 of Edward's in the seminal "Film und Foto" exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany in in May–July 1929. (Brett Weston Photographs: 1925-1930 and 1980-1982, edited by Van Deren Coke, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1983, p. 10).

Willi Ruge poster design. Film und Foto, 1929.

"Film und Fotowas comprised of approximately 1,000 works from Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The traveling exhibition was a seminal avant-garde event in the history of modern photography which Neutra, through his European publishing and Deutscher Werkbund connections, was given responsibility for America's West Coast contributions. Neutra made a friend for life by delegating this task to Weston and providing him, Brett and Weston-Schindler mutual friends Imogen Cunningham and Roger Sturtevant their first significant European exposure. The below exhibition catalogue included an introductory essay to the American section by Edward along with a few of his images and a listing of his and Brett's contributions. (For much more on this see my "Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism" (PGS))


Catalogue cover for "Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbunds Film und Foto, Stuttgart 1929." From Luminous Lint

"Focus and Mechanism, Experimental Cinema, June 1930, p. 2.

Perhaps the first publication of Brett's "Stacks" was in the pages of Edward's friend Seymour Stern's Experimental Cinema in the June 1930 issue (see above). This came about through the largess of Edward's erstwhile lover and close family friend Christel Gang who was Stern's secretary, translator and contributor. Brett had only flown the coop from Carmel the previous month and moved in with modernist promoter Pauline Schindler in Frank Lloyd Wright's Storer House where he would set up shop with his first photo studio (see below). (A Restless Eye: A Biography of Photographer Brett Weston by John Charles Woods, Erica Weston Editions, Richmond, MO, 2011, p. 109 and PGS). 

Storer House, 8161 Hollywood Blvd., Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, 1924.

Edward wrote of Brett's inevitable departure, 
"But Brett has grown wings, - no longer a child, yet so much a child in many ways that my heart aches when I think of what he faces now alone. But it had to be for his own growth. He no longer fitted into this nest, yet while he used it he had to be part of the routine, which no longer interested him." (Daybooks, May 18, 1930).
Braxton Gallery, 1624 N.Vine St., Hollywood, R. M. Schindler, architect, 1929. Viroque Baker and/or Brett Weston photos.

Brett had two months earlier made a rush trip to Los Angeles, possibly accompanied by fellow erstwhile Carmelite Roger Sturtevant, to photograph some projects Pauline included in her "Contemporary Creative Architecture" exhibition which traveled among various West Coast venues during 1930-31. Pauline welcomed with open arms her former Walt Whitman School pupil and quickly began acting as Brett's "agent" and designing his business card (see below). Pauline and sometime housemate Galka Scheyer, the first ever person to purchase a Brett Weston print, would commandeer Harry Braxton's nearby Hollywood gallery (see above) designed by her estranged husband to show wealthy prospective clients Brett's work. Edward had a well-reviewed exhibition at Braxton's the previous February with all of his Los Angeles friends likely in attendance at the opening. (Millier, Arthur, "Realism or Abstraction," Los Angeles Times, February 9, 1930, p. II-17). (PGS. See also my "The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School" and "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club" for much more detail on the Braxton Gallery.).

Brett Weston business card, ca. 1930-31, designed by Pauline Schindler. Brett Weston portrait of Vasia Anikeef, Carmel, 1929. From the Weston Collection. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Laemmle Office Building, Hollywood and Vine, Hollywood, 1932-3, Richard Neutra, architect. From Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture by Thomas S. Hines, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 160.

Stern was introduced into the Weston-Schindler orbit during Brett's time at the Storer House by Christel Gang. Stern was a higher level production assistant and special advisor to future Neutra client Carl Laemmle at his Universal Pictures while Gang was working as a German translator for Laemmle as well as her association with Stern's Experimental Cinema (see below).

Experimental Cinema, February 1930, inaugural issue.

Then editor of Carmel's avant-garde weekly newspaper The Carmelite, Pauline Schindler had featured contributing editor Weston's 1927 portrait of Gang on the cover the previous year (see below). Coincidentally Edward's "Smokestacks" appeared in his one-man show at the Carmel Playhouse the previous month. (Per Weston bibliographer Paula Freedman.).

Christel Gang, Edward Weston portrait. The Carmelite, April 10, 1929. Front cover. Courtesy Harrison Memorial Library, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA.

Jacobs, Lewis, "Eisenstein," Experimental Cinema, February 1931, p. 4.

Then romantically involved with Russian film maker Sergei Eisenstein whom Stern had been urging Laemmle to employ, Gang arranged for a portrait-sitting for him at Brett's Storer House studio. (Sergei M. Eisenstein by Marie Seton, The Bodley Head, London, 1952, p. 156)Stern used Brett's portait of Sergei in the next issue of Experimental Cinema (see above) along with a portfolio of Edward's work and his statement in the same issue (see below). 

"Edward Weston," Experimental Cinema, February 1931, pp. 13-15.

(Author's note: Gang showed Eisenstein her collection of Edward's abstract prints and offered him one of his choosing. He selected an abstract nude of a woman's back which just so happened that she had been the model for (see below).

Weston, Edward, Nude (Christel Gang), 1927. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Weston, Brett, "Three Fingers and an Ear," (Ramiel McGehee), 1929, gelatin silver print, 6-7/8 x 9-5/16 in. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From Brett Weston Photographs: 1925-1930 and 1980-1982, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1983, p. 9.

During the portrait session Eisenstein absconded with Brett's now iconic portrait of another Weston-Schindler intimate Ramiel McGehee (see above). 
"He saw a few of my photographs lying around and suddenly declared, "I vant dat!" Without another word he picked up my photograph of "Three Fingers and an Ear" and walked off with it. I couldn't stop him because I was intimidated, but it was a great compliment. That photograph later appeared on the cover (see below) of Camera magazine." (Woods, p. 110).
Weston, Brett, "Three Fingers and an Ear," (Ramiel McGehee), 1929, Camera, February 1973.

Special Eisenstein "Que Viva Mexico!" issue, Experimental Cinema, February 1933.

Sergei M. Eisenstein by Marie Seton, Bodley Head, 1952. Brett Weston frontispiece. (From my collection).  

Brett's portrait of Eisenstein presaged Sergei's making of the film "Que Viva Mexico!" (see above) with the financial backing of prominent Weston-Schindler circle members Upton Sinclair and Kate Crane Gartz. Sergei acknowledged that the inspiration for the film came from the 1926 photos Anita Brenner commissioned from Edward Weston and Tina Modotti to illustrate her Idols Behind Altars (see below). (Seton, p. 194). (For much more on Sinclair and Gartz see my "The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School. For much more on Barnsdall and her Los Angeles Little Theatre see my "Edward Weston, R. M. Schindler, Anna Zacsek, Lloyd Wright, Reginald Pole and Their Dramatic Circles").

Dust jacket for Idols Behind Altars by Annita Brenner, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York, 1929. Cover illustration by Jean Charlot. (From my collection). (See also in my "The Nude Backs of Edward Weston, Diego Rivera and JeanCharlot, 1925-27"). (For much more on the intimate Schindler-Weston-Charlot connections see my "Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage and Their Avant-Garde Relationships").

Idols Behind Altars by Anita Brenner, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1929. Frontispiece photo "Hand of the Potter Amado Galvan" by Edward Weston, 1926. (Author's note: This image was also included in the above-mentioned Film und Foto exhibition). (From my collection).

During Eiesenstein's portrait session Brett undoubtedly reminisced about assisting Tina and Edward as a fifteen-year-old while they traveled across Mexico compiling the images Brenner had in mind for her well-received book, including images of the murals of Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros. They also certainly must have discussed Orozco's nearby "Prometheus" in Pomona which Brett photographed shortly after it's completion in May 1930.

In December 1930 "Gangster," Sergei's nickname for Christel, and Seymour Stern saw Eisenstein off at the station on his way to Mexico to begin filming on "Que Viva Mexico!" Seymour later wrote of Sergei, 
"He was the most brilliant human being I have ever met: he was intellectually free of illusion, politically free of dogma, and socially free of prejudice, and spiritually free of superstition. ... In Eisenstein I found a free mind." (Seton, p. 191). (Author's note: Around this same time Neutra received a commission to design Laemmle's Universal Pictures Building begging the question whether Stern and/or Gang played a role in him landing this prestigious project on the corner of Hollywood and Vine in the heart of Hollywood. Coincidentally Eisenstein also featured the work of another Neutra client Josef Von Sternberg in Experimental Cinema in 1934, the same year Von Sternberg commissioned Neutra to design his house. For much more on Neutra's Von Sternberg commission and his Mexican connections see my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club").
Millier, Arthur, "Reviews and News of Art; Photographs for Himself," Los Angeles Times, July 20,1930, p. II-12.

Around the time Brett's "Stacks" first appeared in Experimental Cinema Jose Clemente Orozco was working on his "Prometheus" mural at Pomona College. The next publication of Brett's "Stacks" was in the pages of the Los Angeles Times as part of art critic and family friend Arthur Millier's review of his one-man show at Jake Zeitlin's Book Shop (see above). The same day this article appeared, Orozco and his New York Delphic Studios gallerist Alma Reed were visiting Edward in Carmel.
"The coming of Clemente Orozco and Alma Reed will go down as an important day in my personal history. I am to open the season with a one-man exhibit in Alma Reed's New York Gallery: but more important she is to keep my work, feature it along with Orozco's, to the exclusion of all other artists'."(Daybooks, July 19, 21, 1930). 
Edward Weston Delphic Studios exhibition catalog, October 15-31, 1930. Bancroft Library, Alfred Honigbaum Collection.

Jose Clemente Orozco, Los Angeles, July 1930. Brett Weston photo. From Pijoan, Joseph, "Orozco's Great Fresco," Touring Topics, October, 1930.

Coincidentally, just a couple weeks prior to this, Brett had photographed Orozco (see above) whose murals he viewed and helped his father photograph during his 1926 coming of age in Mexico. The portrait was possibly taken at his Storer House studio around the time Orozco was being feted by the California Art Club (discussed later). Brett also photographed Orozco's breathtaking "Prometheus" at Pomona College around the same time (see below). By then longtime Schindler-Weston intimate Arthur Millier featured Brett's photo of Orozco's mural two weeks before publishing his "Stacks" thus these must have been heady times indeed for the rapidly emerging lensman. (For much more on Orozco's time in Los Angeles in 1930 and his New York murals see my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club.").

Brett Weston photo of "Prometheus" by Jose Clemente Orozco. (Millier, A., "Orozco's Fresco Complete," Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1930, pp. II-7, 12.

Orozco, Jose Clemente, ca. 1940s. "Jose Pijoan," From Christie's.

Art professor Jose Pijoan (see above), the driving force behind Orozco's visitation to Pomona College, also used Brett's stunning "Prometheus" image as the centerfold for his article "Orozco's Great Fresco" in the October issue of Touring Topics (see below). (For much more on Touring Topics see my "Touring Topics / Westways: The Phil Townsend Hanna Years." For much more on Professor Pijoan see my "Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage" and "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club."). 

Pijoan, Joseph, "Orozco's Great Fresco," Touring Topics, October, 1930.

"Orozco and Pijoan Dream of Giants," Art Digest, August, 1930, cover. Brett Weston photograph.

Possibly the most prominent publication of Brett's photograph of Orozco's Prometheus was on the August 1930 cover of the prestigious national journal Art Digest (see above) again likely through the largess of Pijoan and/or the magazine's West Coast contributor Arthur Millier.

Jose Clemente Orozco, Carmel, July 20, 1930. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

"Symbols of Progress," ca. 1930 by Florence B. Kemmler. From Pictorialism in California: Photographs 1900-1940, essays by Michael G. Wilson and Dennis Reed, J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994, o. 127.

The exhibition and publications of Brett's "Stacks" seemingly inspired at least one other California pictorialist to seek out the industrial location for their own interpretation as seen in San Diegan Florence B. Kemmler's masterful depiction above.

Amerika, Die Stilbildung des Neuen Bauens in den Vereinigten Staten, Richard J. Neutra, Verlag Von Anton Schroll & Co., Wien, 1930, p. 145.

At their prestigious digs at Aline Barnsdall's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House, the California Art Club honored Orozco, his Pomona College mural assistant Jorge Juan Crespo de la Serna, and Pijoan at their monthly dinner meeting on April 17th with Pauline, Brett and others in their Storer House circle certainly in attendance. The Hollyhock House construction supervisor and 1928 Olive Hill Residence B remodel architect R. M. Schindler was also undoubtedly in attendance.("Notable Company to Meet," Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1930, p. I-8). 

Club Second Vice-President and Schindler Kings Road House tenant Richard Neutra most likely attended this meeting and met Orozco since he was slated to be the following month's honoree shortly before his world tour departure (see below). (For much more Neutra's connections to Orozco and Siqueiros see my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club: Pathways to theJosef von Sternberg and Dudley Murphy Commissions".

Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1930, p. I-8. From ProQuest.

Before leaving on his career-making world tour in May 1930, Neutra also selected "Stacks" (see above) and other images by Brett and Edward from their "Film und Foto" portfolios to illustrate his second book, Amerika, Die Stilbildung des Neuen Bauens in den Vereinigten Staten, published the same year (see below). Charged with designing the cover, noted Russian graphic designer El Lissitzky was so taken by "Stacks" when he viewed it in "Film und Foto" that he selected it along with another image from Neutra's book, a photo by Herbert of New York's Chanin Building, to create the striking cover photomontage seen below. Like Weston via Neutra, El Lissitzky was also prominently involved in the "Film und Foto," having been selected for  the design of the Soviet Pavilion. His now iconic self-portrait was also included in this seminal exhibition. (see two below).

Amerika, Die Stilbildung des Neuen Bauens in den Vereinigten Staten, Richard J. Neutra, Verlag Von Anton Schroll & Co., Wien, 1930. (From my collection).

"The Constructor," El Lissitzky self-portrait, 1924. From Analogue 76.

Weston, Brett, untitled, (Mt. Wilson Observatory support structure), ca. 1928, gelatin silver print, 4 x 3 in. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From Brett Weston Photographs: 1925-1930 and 1980-1982, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1983, p. 7.

Besides being first published in the August 1928 issue of the San Franciscan, Brett's print of the Mt. Wilson Observatory support structure seen above and below was also featured in the Fourteenth Annual International Salon of the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles alongside soon-to-be fellow Group f.64 members including his father, Willard Van Dyke and Imogen Cunningham in 1931. (The Pictorialist, 1931, Adcraft, Los Angeles, 1931).

"The Modern Age," San Franciscan, August 1928, p. 19. Photo by Brett Weston.

Neutra was obviously inspired by Brett's ability to find art in industrial repetition of geometric shapes evidenced by his above photo of the angular steel girders and texture of the rivets of the Mt. Wilson Observatory tower. It is likely that Neutra viewed the above publication of Brett's striking "function begets form" image when he lectured in Carmel in November 1928. Pauline certainly would have shown it to him and likely would have known by then of Weston's plans to move to Carmel at the end of the year. Neutra made a trip to Mt. Wilson to photograph the tower himself for inclusion in Amerika (see below). He also likely used this trip to gather research for an unsuccessful attempt to win the new Griffith Park Observatory commission. (Author's note: Both Edward and Brett titled various prints "Form Follows Function" indicating that they had attended lectures or salons in which both Schindler and Neutra espoused the term they learned from their reading of Louis Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats. For more on this see my "R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra and Louis Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats").

Amerika, Die Stilbildung des Neuen Bauens in den Vereinigten Staten, Richard J. Neutra, Verlag Von Anton Schroll & Co., Wien, 1930, p. 148.

Weston, Brett, untitled, (tower, Los Angeles), ca. 1927, gelatin silver print, 3 x 4 in. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From Brett Weston Photographs: 1925-1930 and 1980-1982, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1983, p. 8. 

Further evidence that Amerika was a collaborative effort with the Westons are the above and below images of power lines and towers. Brett's 1928 photo above again captured the repetitive beauty and geometry of an industrial object and was again the likely inspiration for Neutra's inclusion of the Southern California Edison photo below. The location of this pylon was most likely at the Seal Beach Power Plant as seen later below.

Power Pylon. Credited to Southern California Edison. From Amerika, Die Stilbildung des Neuen Bauens in den Vereinigten Staten, Richard J. Neutra, Verlag Von Anton Schroll & Co., Wien, 1930, p. 146.

Brett's above tower image appears to be from the same outing as the earlier above smokestack images from the Alameda Steam Generating Plant. The location was just down Pacific Coast Highway a few miles at the Seal Beach Power Plant. The above and below photographs indicate that these particular power lines and pylons were a popular subject. Edward Weston captured his own iconic image below most likely on the same outing as Brett's above. 

"Power Lines, Lincoln Boulevard, Los Angeles, 1927." Edward Weston photograph. From E. O. Hoppe's Amerika, Modernist Photographs from the 1920s by Philip Prodger, Curatorial Assistance and Norton, New York, 2007, p. 34. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

"Edison Wireless, Electrical Pylons, Los Angeles, 1926."  Photo by E. O. Hoppe. From E. O. Hoppe's Amerika, Modernist Photographs from the 1920s by Philip Prodger, Curatorial Assistance and Norton, New York, 2007, p. 154. (Originally published in Hoppe's Romantic America, 1927).

The above and below power pylon images were taken from what is now Pacific Coast Highway (previously Lincoln Boulevard). The old Seal Beach Power Plant originally owned by Edison is in the background. The plant is now known as the Haynes Generating Station and is owned by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Edison Pylons, Seal Beach, ca. 1931. Photograph by Will Connell. Will Connell Papers, Charles E. Young Research Library.

Edison Pylons, Seal Beach, ca. 1930. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives, Huntington Digital Library.

Seal Beach Power Plant and Ocean Avenue Bridge, ca. 1928. From Photographer unknown. From Water and Power Associates.

A variant of the El Lissitzky Amerika cover photomontage also appeared in David Arkin's Arkhitektura Sovremennogo Zapada in a section excerpted from Neutra's book titled "Some Peculiarities of Recent American Architecture" which also featured images of Neutra's "Rush City Reformed."

El Lissitzky photomontage, "Stacks" by Brett Weston, Chanin Building, New York, photo by Herbert. From Arkitektura Sovremennogo Zapada, Moscow, 1932 cited in Scenes of the World to Come: European Architecture and the American Challenge 1893-1960 by Jean-Louis Cohen, Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1995, p. 101. Both images first appeared in Neutra's Amerika

Another important appearance of Brett's "Stacks" was in a large group show of many Group f/64 participants and friends at San Francisco's De Young Museum under the curatorship of Lloyd La Page Rollins in early 1933 which included a total of 45 of Brett's prints. Coincidentally, R. M. Schindler had a concurrent exhibition of his architecture at the De Young as did Schindler-Weston intimates Henrietta Shore and Xenia Kashevaroff. (For more details on these concurrent exhibitions by these mutual friends see my "Schindlers-Westons-Kasevaroff-Cage").

Brett Weston, 1931 by Edward Weston. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

This essay is intended to give a sense of the deeply entwined relationships of the Weston and Schindler families and their bohemian circles of friends in 1920s-1930s Los Angeles and Carmel. It is also indicative how a singular image can gain a life of its own, inspire other artists, mutate and spread globally under the right circumstances. Stay tuned for much more to come.

Afterword


"Smokestacks," ARMCO Steel, 1941.

Edward Weston revisited ARMCO Steel in 1941 capturing the above image as part of his portfolio commissioned by the Limited Editions Club for the commemorative edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The result was a fresh take on the subject but with a proud nod to his son Brett's 1927 image taken at the Alameda Steam Generating Plant with which I began this essay. This was proof positive that smokestacks had by then acheived archetypal status in his psyche.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Limited Editions Club, 1941. Illustrations by Edward Weston.