Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fitzpatrick House, 1936-2014, R. M. Schindler, Julius Shulman and Kim Gordon: A 78-Year Collaboration Courtesy of MAK and the Gagosian Gallery


(Click on images to enlarge)
Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

R. M. Schindler, 1935. Photo by Dorothea Lange. Oakland Museum of California.

West elevation from across Laurel Canyon Blvd., Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Julius Shulman presciently photographed this house designed by Schindler for Clifton Estates developer Clifton C. Fitzpatrick located near the corner of Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon Blvd. sometime in early 1937, only a year after committing to a lifetime career as an architectural photographer. He was inspired by encouragement he received from Schindler's erstwhile Kings Road tenant and partner Richard Neutra after showing him his photos of the Kun House just down the hill at the mouth of Laurel Canyon. Shulman would purchase a lot nearby at 7875 Woodrow Wilson Dr. and commission Neutra disciple Raphael Soriano to design his personal residence which was completed in 1950. Shulman likely had to pay much more than the $750 price advertised for Fitzpatrick's lots below despite his lot being quite difficult to build on.

Clifton Estates Real Estate ad, Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1937, p. V-3.

Valhalla Memorial Park portal. Kenneth McDonald, Jr., architect, 1925. From Cemetery of the Week # 40: Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.

In 1923 Fitzpatrick and then business partner John R. Osborne founded the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in Burbank. The Spanish Mission Revival entrance structure was designed by architect Kenneth McDonald Jr. For the decorative stone castings, McDonald hired Italian-born sculptor Federico A. Giorgi, who had created 30-foot (9.1 m)-tall statues of elephants and lions for the 1916 epic D. W. Griffith film "Intolerance" and crafted the exterior of downtown's Million Dollar Theater. The gateway to the new cemetery cost $140,000 (see below). (Author's note: For much more on Griffth's film "Intolerance" and the roles habitues of the Schindler-Weston circle such as Anna Zacsek and Ruth St. Denis played see my "Edward Weston, R. M. Schindler, Anna Zacsek, Lloyd Wright,Reginald Pole, Beatrice Wood and Their Dramatic Circles."). 

"Valhalla Architect Testifies," Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1925, p. 6.

The rotunda was dedicated March 1, 1925, with a concert by English contralto Maude Elliott. Just five months after the dedication, Osborne and Fitzpatrick were convicted of fraud after a lengthy $150,000 trial, more than the cost to build the portal (see above). They had sold the same burial plots repeatedly — as many as 16 times — and netted a profit of $3 million to $4 million, according to dozens of scandalous period articles making headlines in the Los Angeles Times. They were fined $12,000 each and sentenced to 10 years in Leavenworth prison but served less than half the sentence. 

"Vahalla Pair Sentenced," Los Angeless Times, August 15, 1925, p. I-7.

It is not known whether Schindler had any difficulty receiving his design fees from Fitzpatrick but his Clifton Estates model home sold to New York theater chain operator and Cape Playhouse founder Raymond Moore for $17,000 two weeks after the earlier above ad ran. Moore likely planned to use Schindler's modernistic design to recruit Hollywood movie stars to play summer stock at his prestigious 605-seat Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA. This is evidenced by his May 1936 Hollywood trip seeking to recruit Ginger Rogers. The Cape Playhouse, now the oldest summer theater in America, opened in 1927 with a play starring Basil Rathbone. HenryFonda and Bette Davis, a former playhouse usher, made their acting debuts there. ("Ginger Rogers May Star in Play at Summer Theater," Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1936, p. 15). It is interesting to speculate whether Schindler and friends were introduced into Moore's Hollywood circle or vice versa. (For much on Schindler-Weston connections with the New York and Cape Cod theatrical communities see my "Edward Weston, R. M. Schindler, Anna Zacsek, Lloyd Wright,Reginald Pole, Beatrice Wood and Their Dramatic Circles").

Raymond Moore, Cape Playhouse founder, “The Cape Playhouse and the Cape Cinema” ca. 1930s. From Tragedy and Comedy in New England.

"New York Theater Owner Buys Residential Realty Here," Los Angeles Times, May 23, 1937, p. VII-1.

Julius Shulman, 1935. From Wikipedia.

In his 1998 autobiography Shulman reminisced about the mentoring he received from Schindler on photographing interiors. 
"My relationship with Schindler was a cordial one. Although he never attended an assignment with me, he provided invaluable critiques of my photographs. I particularly recall his comments when reviewing prints of his Daugherty House in the Santa Monica Mountains. He asked: "Why on your interiors is the lighting equal in intensity on adjacent walls?" He then pointed to the naturally illuminated walls in his studio. Each differed, the light sources struck at varied angles. What a lesson! In my use of floodlights it had not occurred to me that illumination need not be uniform. Schindler's observations were timely for, as I became more active, there was a growing responsibility for more realistic identity of natural values in my interior compositions. My photographic techniques were further enhanced by his continuing comments on my interpretations to his designs. We both gained." (Julius Shulman: Architecture and its Photography, Taschen, 1998, pp. 46-48).
Shulman property, 7875 Woodrow Wilson Dr. Julius Shulman photo ca. 1950. Copyright Getty Research Institute, Shulman Archive.

It was from the above promontory that the legendary iconographer held court until his passing in 2009 just short of his 100th birthday. Schindler's Fitzpatrick House would be just out of view to the right in the above photo. It was also here where film maker Jake Gorst and I had the honor of performing the last recorded interview of Shulman for footage for the film on one of his best clients, "William Krisel, Architect." (For much more on Shulman's house see my post, "Julius Shulman Residence, 7875 Woodrow Wilson Dr., Los Angeles, Raphael Soriano, 1950, Historical Cultural Monument #325").

John Crosse interviewing Julius Shulman for the film "William Krisel: Architect" with film maker Jake Gorst. Photo by Phil Weyland, 2009.

Front yard and east elevation, Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Fitzpatrick House floor plans, from R. M. Schindler, Works and Projects, by Judith Sheine, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1998, p. 145.

Front yard, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

R. M. Schindler's now Fitzpatrick-Leland House was donated to the MAK in 2008 by then owner Russ Leland after completing a 10-year restoration process. Most Schindler fans will remember the house through the iconic images of the then fledgling lensman Julius Shulman who captured one of the few spec houses designed by Schindler, the others being three at 423, 429 and 433 Ellis Ave. in Inglewood in 1940, one of which was recently meticulously restored in award-winning fashion by Steven Ehrlich for his daughter in 2010. (See Vuong, Zen, "House of the Issue - Steven Ehrlich Architects," Architects Newsletter, December 6, 2010).

R. M. Schindler Spec House, Ellis Ave., Inglewood, 1940. Restoration by Steven Ehrlich, 2010. Grant Mudford photo.

Gordon's basement studio, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.
"Unlike most of Schindler's houses, which were designed for specific clients, the Fitzpatrick-Leland House was built on spec—a promotion of sorts for a new hilltop housing development. The angular, terraced structure was anything but anonymous—Schindler was the most idiosyncratic of L.A.'s early modern masters—but the spirit of the place was still aspirational. Gordon holed up in the basement game room for two-and-a-half weeks to paint." (Romano, Andrew, "Kim Gordon: Going Solo After Sonic Youth, and Why She Identifies With ‘Girls’," The Daily Beast, April 10, 2014.)
Kim Gordon, Design Office, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 2014. (Romano, Andrew, "Kim Gordon: Going Solo After Sonic Youth, and Why She Identifies With ‘Girls’," The Daily Beast, April 10, 2014.) All artwork © Kim Gordon. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Jiro Schneider.

Under the auspices of the Gagosian Gallery Kim Gordon is presenting newly created paintings throughout the iconic Modernist house under the byname of Design Office, the entity which encompasses her diverse and prolific production in art, music, literature, film, and fashion. Rudolph Schindler's iconic Fitzpatrick-Leland House (1936) was designed and constructed as a “spec” property to promote the housing development on the steep hillsides above Los Angeles. 

Sonic Youth, Dirty, 1992. Album cover design by artist Mike Kelley.

The multi-talented Gordon, was until recently a member of  Sonic Youth, an alternative rock band formed in New York City in 1981 that has performed at Coachella and many other SoCal venues. Their lineup included besides Kim, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Mark Ibold, and Steve Shelley. The band's discography includes 16 studio albums, seven extended plays, three compilation albums, seven video releases, 21 singles, 46 music videos, eight releases in the Sonic Youth Recordings series, eight official bootlegs, and contributions to 16 soundtracks and other compilations. (Here is a link to a Kim Gordon fashion clip on YouTube). (Author's note: The designer of cover for Sonic Youth's 1992 album "Dirty" was none other than Mike Kelley who coincidentally now has a major retrospective on display at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary until July 18th. Don't miss!)

Sonic Youth in performance. From Wikipedia.

After location scouting for months to find a venue for Gordon to work on and display her wreath paintings on display in this show, Gagosian Gallery curator and sometime location scout Aaron Moulton decided that the gallery-like setting provided by the Fitzpatrick House, the last place he inspected, was the most inspiring option. Schindler fans such as myself cannot help but agree. Displaying contemporary art in historically significant buildings is a growing trend in Los Angeles and if this show is any indication we have a lot to look forward to in the years ahead. 

Following is a portfolio of photos taken by Julius Shulman in 1937 and me today at the 11:00 a.m. Gagosian Gallery scheduled viewing. Sign up fast before there are no more dates left to experince Gordon's and Schindler's collaborative handiwork.

West elevation from east side of Laurel Canyon Blvd., Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Fitzpatrick House cross-sections, from R. M. Schindler, Works and Projects, by Judith Sheine, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1998, p. 145.

Living room, Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Scanned from R. M. Schindler, Architect by August Sarnitz, Rizzoli, 1986, p. 128. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Living room, Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Scanned from R. M. Schindler, Architect by August Sarnitz, Rizzoli, 1986, p. 128. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Living room, Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Scanned from Julius Shulman: Architecture and its Photography, Taschen, 1998, p. 46. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

From the kitchen looking towards the living room, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

Upstairs bedroom, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

Bathroom, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

Patio and north exterior, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

Living room, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

 Basement, Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Basement, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

 Looking southeasterly from Laurel Canyon Blvd., Fitzpatrick House, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., 1936. R. M. Schindler, Architect. Julius Shulman Job 0132, 1937. Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute.

Kitchen, Fitzpatrick-Leland House, 1936, 8078 Woodrow Wilson Dr., R. M. Schindler, Architect. Photo by John Crosse, April 17, 2014.

A lively discussion with new friends from left to right, artist Robyn O'Neil who was inspired to come and see Gordon's exhibition because of her Sonic Youth album covers designed by Mike Kelley, avid world art travelers and collectors George Morton and Karol Howard, Beth Crosse and Gagosian Gallery curator and host par excellence Aaron Moulton. George and Karol who regaled and provided us with numerous art travel tips were featured in a recent issue of Art & Antiques Magazine.
"Both the Dallas-based collector Karol Howard and the New York dealer Luise Ross feel that, more and more, general art audiences are appreciating both self-taught and trained artists’ works without drawing strict distinctions; they credit outsider art’s increasing presence in museums and art fairs for helping to steer this trend. Howard and her husband, George Morton, have built a collection that seamlessly brings together self-taught and trained artists’ works in many different formats and media. Howard says, “What kind of artist may have a made a particular piece is less important to us than its overall strength and the appeal of its subject matter.” However, Ross notes that, in the still-ailing art economy, “there are no younger clients; young people look at the work but never inquire about anything.” Even if outsider art may appear to some to be breaking out of a label-limited category, she suggests, it is solid sales that give an art-market trend its momentum." (Gomez, Edward M., "On the Border," Art & Antiques, February 2011).
Having studied British Arts & Architecture at Kings College in London, Robyn enjoyed immensely the collaboration and integration of Gordon's work in Schindler's architecture. Many of her drawings are reminiscent to me of the work of Laddie John Dill whose work is prominently featured in our living room.