Entries in Los Angeles (3)

Sunday
Dec022012

In the Land of Gods and Monsters: Lynch and Ruscha's Los Angeles

“What a fine thing it would be, Harvey thought, to build a place like this. To drive its foundations deep into the earth; to lay its floors and hoist its walls; to say: Where there was nothing, I raised a house. That would be a very fine thing.” - Clive Barker, "The Thief of Always"

LANA DEL REY: GODS AND MONSTERS

LANA DEL REY: COLA

 

I.

"Although one or two pictures suggest some recognition of the criteria of art-photography, or even architectural photography, the majority seem to take pleasure in rigorous display of generic lapses: improper relation of lenses to subject distances, insensitivity to time of day and quality of light, excessively functional cropping, with abrupt excisions of peripheral objects, lack of attention to the specific character of the moment bing depicted—all in all a hilarious performance, an almost sinister mimicry of the way “people” make images of the dwellings with which they are involved. Ruscha’s impersonation of such an Everyperson obviously draws attention to the alienated relationships people have with their built environment." [2]

"In 1965 Edward Ruscha published Some Los Angeles Apartments, the third in his ongoing series of photographic books, and completed a group of ten related drawings that depict variations on the ubiquitous Southern California apartment building.

Ruscha’s apartment book chronicles the artist’s fascination with Los Angeles and its unique characteristics. Having moved there from Oklahoma in 1956, Ruscha was immediately excited by his new environment and stimulated by its fast and mobile landscape. The car, in fact, is central to the development of Ruscha’s work. His love of driving around Los Angeles, exploring the city and absorbing its character, coupled with frequent trips along Route 66 to visit Oklahoma, gave him a visual perspective defined by the windshield, driver’s window, and curbside. He found gasoline stations, apartments, vacant lots, and palm trees during drives around Los Angeles and photographed them from where he stood beside his parked car." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1029 S. Union," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Although it was not Ruscha’s intent, Some Los Angeles Apartments also documents an aberrant chapter in a fifty-year history of distinguished architectural achievement in Southern California. A combination of factors contributed to the growth of a distinct and adventurous architecture during the first half of the twentieth century. The open, horizontal space and temperate climate promoted outdoor living and the proliferation of single-family houses and apartments with patios and gardens. Los Angeles also developed—by plan and circumstance—as a decentralized city with many commercial centers joined by an efficient and complex system of freeways that established the private car as the primary means of transportation. The mobility afforded by the automobile contributed greatly to the overall dispersal of low-density residential buildings, usually only one or two stories high. In addition, by the 1930s, a strong economy coupled with an atmosphere of optimism and experimentation encouraged a talented group of young architects to design an imaginative California Modern style of house and apartment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "6565 Fountain Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"The earliest suggestion of a modern architecture appears in the work of Irving Gill. His Horatio West Court (1919) displays a modernized version of the then dominant Mission Revival style. During the teens and twenties, this common form of residential architecture—derived from the Spanish missions built in California in the eighteenth century—was typically wood framed, sheathed with white stucco, and oriented around a garden space. The solid massing and plain surfaces of Mission Revival architecture related to current abstract architecture being done by Adolf Loos and Walter Gropius in Austria and Germany. Gill further pared away detail, emphasizing broad white surfaces with deep recesses, arches, and horizontal bands of windows meeting at the corner, offering abundant light, ventilation, and ocean views. Gill’s synthesis of the Mission style, with its stress on simplicity, geometry, light, and shade, was well suited to the California Climate.

The rapid growth of the Los Angeles population and residential and public development through the 1930s led to the proliferation of bungalows, ranch houses, and tract housing, all clad in various period styles—Regency, Colonial, Tudor, Spanish, and Streamline Moderne. However, the most distinguished contribution was made by a few architects, most notably R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra, who arrived in LA in the 1920s. Both were born and trained in Vienna, had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, and were deeply committed to the International Style. Their aesthetic, which demanded that materials, details, and form symbolically and functionally relate to a rational machine precisionism, was easily adaptable to the requirements of the Southern California environment. Neutra’s Landfair Apartments and Strathmore Apartments (both 1938) are pure International Style. Simple, direct, and rational, they are one- and two-story  buildings with a small number of apartments, suggesting single-family residences. Their clean planes of white stucco, generous bands of horizontal windows, and flat roofs with gardens were compatible with a simplified, modern, outdoor-oriented life-style. Schindler’s structures reveal more complex compositions, emphasizing spatial and volumetric forms that are both functional and aesthetic. On the façade of Schindler’s Mackey Duplex Apartments (1939), the internal vertical and horizontal spaces project to external volumes that are integral to the composition rather than merely decorative. Schindler’s De Stijl forms exerted a strong influence on the development of Los Angeles architecture, offering innovation and adaptability in apartment design." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2014 S. Beverly Glen Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

Edward Ruscha, "15120 Victory Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Other variations on International Style apartments using a court or garden plan were provided by Gregory Ain and J.R. Davidson, two architects influenced by Neutra and Schindler. Ain’s Dunsmuir Flats Apartments (1937) is a severely geometricized International Style building staggered back on a deep lot. A long, narrow outside entrance on one side allows garden areas on the opposite side of the building. Each apartment is two stories, with the ground floor opening onto a private patio, and all rooms are illuminated on three sides by narrow strip windows. The front elevation is dominated by a row of enclosed garages, completing a plan that is consistent in layout, structure, and materials with convenience, privacy, outdoors, an the automobile. Davidson’s Gretna Green Apartments (1940) displays the same concern with patio gardens, well-lit living spaces, and convenient car accommodations in a simple, well-organized, and substantial white stucco structure. Like Neutra and Schindler, Davidson’s training in a European Modern aesthetic is comfortably adapted to the new California Modern style. A variation on apartment structures is seen in William Foster’s Shangri-La Apartments and Hotel (1941)—a massive Streamline Moderne structure displaying curved corners, decorative glass bricks, and fanciful lettering on the entrance canopy. The desirable corner location, affording sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, encouraged a high-rise building, with balconies on the upper floors, that offered both private apartments and hotel rooms.

The increasing population density and continuing growth of commercial centers in West Los Angeles and along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor in the 1950s generated more high-rise apartments, but these were on the model of New York residential buildings. Victor Gruen’s Wilshire Terrace Apartments (1959) is a massive rectangular box with pattern and texture dominating all four sides. The interior circulation, double-loaded corridors, necessity for elevators, and lack of access to outdoor areas marks a distinct departure from the California Modern Architecture of the previous two decades, which emphasized the advantages of the Los Angeles environment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1018 S. Atlantic Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"By the time Ruscha photographed contemporary apartments in 1965, the distinctions between architectural styles and life-styles and been blurred and even disregarded. The spread of freeways crisscrossing the Los Angeles basin and the subsequent development of properties at interchanges and off-ramps, along with a population density too high to allow spacious single-family residences and garden apartments, spawned the appearance of the Los Angeles ‘dingbat’ apartment. Dingbat—a word of unknown origin traditionally used to describe a typographical symbol or ornament that calls attention to an opening sentence or break between paragraphs—is an appropriate word to describe architecture that displays superficial ornamentation and signage to call attention to itself in order to distinguish it from a similarly plain apartment building next door. Dingbats, which predominate in Some Los Angeles Apartments, are typically two-story walk-up structures with a side-loaded exterior corridor and exterior circulation. Usually a boxy rectangle of wood construction with stuccoed exterior walls, these 1960s apartments display an eccentric, embellished, cheap, and often ridiculous version of the pure Modern style exemplified by Neutra and Schindler. Designed to be cost-effective, they were built to fill the entire lot from the sidewalk property line to the back, with parking efficiently tucked under the living areas in carports. They retain none of the privacy, cross lighting and ventilation, flowering gardens, or architectural originality that they hope to announce by their decorated facades. However, they were of great interest, not necessarily to the people who lived in them, but to Ruscha, precisely because they expressed the freedom, diversity, newness, and irony of the visual experience of Los Angeles." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2206 Echo Park Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

 

II.

“The older the house, the more have likely died inside. This house is old.” - Brooks Sterritt, "A Face is Made of Fourteen Bones"

“Man, the ‘interior designer,’ is . . . an active engineer of atmosphere . . . Everything has to intercommunicate, everything has to be functional—no more secrets, no more mysteries, everything is organized, therefore everything is clear . . . modern man, the cybernetician, [is] a mental hypochondriac, as someone obsessed with the perfect circulation of messages.” - Jean Baudrillard, "The System of Objects"

BARRY ADAMSON: HOLLYWOOD SUNSET

ANGELO BADALAMENTI: HAUNTING & HEARTBREAKING

"In 1997, while promoting his new project, Lost Highway, Lynch granted his first interview to a design journal, the Swiss publication form. Question: ‘Do you ever dream of furniture?’ Answer: ‘I day-dream of furniture, yes.’ The stuff of fantasy, furniture is also a long-standing hobby for Lynch and became a minor business venture for him in the 1990s, after the critical and commercial failure of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and during a period when Lynch struggled to get another film off the ground. In the interview, Lynch explains that he had been making furniture ever since art school and sold his first piece at Skank World, a small Beverly Hills shop specializing in mid-century design. In April 1997 several of Lynch’s pieces, including the Club Tables featured in the photograph of the interior of the Beverly Johnson House, were displayed at Milan’s Salone del Mobile, one of the world’s more prestigious furniture exhibitions. Lynch sold the line—including the Steel Block Table, the Floating Beam Tale, and the Espresso Table—exclusively through the Swiss design company Casanostra, with the small constructions of wood an steel priced between fifteen hundred and two thousand dollars. On Casanostra’s website the last piece is sold with the tag, 'Coffee in an asymmetrical world.'" [3]

"Similarly, the October Films press kit for the picture promoted it as the work of a visionary auteur who conceives of film as an inherently intermedial endeavor, combining music and art direction, painting and photography in a symphony of design:

The design within the house also corresponds to Lynch’s overall vision. ‘I always like to have the people stand out, so the furnishings have got to be as minimal as possible so you can see the people.’ Lynch adds, ‘There were many things that had to be built for the story to work,’ and since Lynch has lately expanded his activities to include the design of furniture, he actually built some pieces for this set himself, most notably the case that contains the Madison’s ominous VCR.

Lost Highway’s furniture, it seems, is transparent, opening onto views of Lynch’s eccentric genius. The romantic idea of the auteur, developed most famously in the 1950s in the pages of the French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma, was bound to a related notion of the expressive mise-en-scène, of a controlled cinematic décor bearing the traces of a presiding aesthetic personality. Style, for the discerning “Hitchcocko-Hawksiens” at Cahiers, would have a soul, humanizing the industrial products of Hollywood’s dream factory. And it is hard not to think of Lynch’s furniture as a kind of artistic cameo, the equivalent in the realm of objects of the cheeky appearances of his beloved Hitchcock, always popping up in his own films and turning them into ever more reflexive and ironic gizmos in the process. What’s more, the furniture—and the domestic drama of Fred (Bill Pullman) and Renee (Patricia Arquette) that occupies roughly the first half of the film’s disjointed narrative—is staged in an über-modern home that is Lynch’s real property, one of three houses (including Lloyd Wright Jr.’s Beverly Johnson House) owned by the director in the same canyon outside of Hollywood. The feature article on Lost Highway in Rolling Stone, explains how Lynch remodeled the house inside and out for the film, adding the tiny, narrow slot windows to the exterior and building a ‘tunnellike hallway’ on the inside, into which Fred Madison will repeatedly be made to disappear." [3]

"The press kit also insists on the centrality of the home’s design to unlocking the film’s secrets or producing more of them:

The house inhabited by Fred and Renee is similarly integral to the film’s scheme, combining stylistic elements of yesterday, today and tomorrow, just as the narrative does. In fact, the house’s peculiar design could almost serve as a metaphor for the entire film: when seen from the front, there are a few small windows, providing limited opportunities to see inside. But when it is approached from other angles, one realizes that there are many ways to observe the interior.

The Madison’s home, we are assured, is like the broader style of the film’s décor, both ‘blazingly modern and absolutely retro in look and feel.’ Dropping references to expressionism, the surrealism of André Breton, psychoanalysis, and film noir, Lost Highway’s marketing announces David Lynch’s return to form through his modernity, and his modernity through an unlikely equation between the modern, minimalist house and modernist narrative complexity. Less is more." [3]

"Aesthetic modernism is part of the film’s status as stylistic pastiche, but also part of its real narrative aspirations and claims to aesthetic legitimacy and power. Lost Highway poaches the design lessons of high modernist architecture—utopian rationalism and functionalism, chiefly—and ironizes them in the service of modernist narrative in the mode of art cinema, blurring art and pornography, visionary idealism and mass-market materialism. In Lost Highway, transparency and rationalism fail in precisely the location where so many postwar architects imagined the future of the modernist impulse—the happy, newly pleasurable open-plan design of the mid-century domestic interior, whose dream of more permeable boundries between inside and outside becomes another nightmare. The film’s relentlessly pornographic imagination is part of its own meditation on auteur self-fashioning as furniture. This befits an artist who, on the heels of two commercial flops, has become well acquainted with the vagaries of mass taste and finds himself embroiled in another campaign to sell himself. In the process, the auteur’s romantic soul is hollowed out, hardening into a merely functional thing. The Lynchian signature becomes a design icon, a fetishized commodity, an ironic advertisement for its own hidden mysteries whose views are forever deferred: furniture porn." [3]

"In Lost Highway these ironic objects—furniture, bodies, and the souls of authors—are set loose in a strikingly dehumanized and unsentimental film. Instead, Lynch positions his furniture in a dark, highly reflexive meditation on the enigma of personality itself—on the very idea of human interiority or other, obscene secrets on the insides of things. The Madison’s modern home allows Lynch to pose the question of the interior in several ways: through the troubled status of bourgeois domesticity and privacy, here again contaminated y theatricality; through the etiology of Fred’s psychological distress, which Lynch again gives harrowing architectural form and here drives the narrative fragmentation; and through the enigma of Renee/Alice, whose mysterious sexuality is asked to speak its truth, in the fashion of pornography." [3]

"The Madison’s living room, with its wooden auteurist prosthesis, draws on the romantic soul of wood—its integrity, warmth, and temporal stability—to protect against the violation of domestic intimacy by technology and psychic malaise. The VCR case’s compensory quality is immediately noticeable because of its functionality and superfluity. There is already a capacious horizontal niche for the VCR carved into the half wall of light wood, which makes the additional wooden sleeve around the VCR an unnecessary design flourish. The case’s evident lack of functionality is all the more flagrant within a semitransparent partition designed, in mid-century fashion, for multifunctionality: it is at once media console, storage space, and room divider, separating the living room from the stairway behind it. But the console offers scant consolation, because its design elements are echoes or repetitions of the house’s exterior: the row of snake plants that frame the console are also arranged in a line outside the Madison’s front door, stretching across the front of the house. The plants call our attention to other graphic repetitions: the nested horizontals of the wooden media console and VCR case are echoed in the horizontal vents in the house’s façade as well as the vertical encasement of the home’s narrow windows—fortress-like slits—and the front door’s own rectangular shell. In these ways the inside is always an outside; this modern house wears its heart—the living room—on its sleeve." [3]

TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM THE EXHIBITION TEXT OF "EDWARD RUSCHA: LOS ANGELES APARTMENTS 1965" BY RICHARD MARSHALL, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF ART, 1990; ALL RUSCHA PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN FROM THE SAME; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM "ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY," EDITED BY JASON GAIGER AND PAUL WOOD, 2003; TEXT [3] TAKEN FROM "DAVID LYNCH" BY JUSTUS NIELAND, 2012; ALL OTHER QUOTES CITED IN TEXT; ALL OTHER IMAGES TAKEN FROM "LOST HIGHWAY," DIR. DAVID LYNCH, PRODUCTION DESIGN BY PATRICIA NORRIS, 1997

Sunday
Nov252012

Samara Golden: The Rape of the Mirror

BRIAN WILSON: 'TIL I DIE [DESPER MIX]

SAMARA GOLDEN: 'TIL I DIE [NIGHT GALLERY FINAL MIX]

"Feeling shipwrecked on a continental island, Night Gallery fakes her own death to escape into Samara Golden's shining sea of blue light and infinite horizon.

In her upcoming solo exhibition 'Rape of The Mirror,' Golden is the storm maker. Her hypothetical cyclone suspends in rotation the rooms of a demolished fantasy; reflecting back hurled pieces of styrofoam that once were the bricks of a dream home. As with Golden's previous work, 'Rape of The Mirror' is an active vortex to an emotionally complex multiverse. SHE is the eye of the tornado.

Inspired by movies such as The Long Goodbye and American Gigolo, Golden constructs an architecture of luxury made entirely of silver insulation material known as Thermax. Reflective furniture, a silver-plated jacuzzi and a queen-sized bed fitted with light blue sheets occupy the gallery space. A video of breaking waves crashes over the installation, illuminating the darkness while stretching the space to the other side of the earth. The gathering gloom watch as lights fade from every room with Golden's perpetual state of sunset plaguing the scene with a foreboding pink hue. Night Gallery is reborn as an ocean side villa dangling from a cliff in the sixth dimension.

'Rape of The Mirror' is a continuation of Golden's investigation of cyclical video-voyeurism as she presents the viewer with multiple perspectives using three cameras and two projectors. These technical mediations, combined with her homespun sculptures-of-deceit, create the Mirage of love. Blue is red and yellow is clear. Adhered to the gallery's back wall, atop a lattice of shelves, is a crying eye that looks upon this domestic setting and sees a house of broken glass transformed into a funhouse made of poor-(wo)man's mirrors.

Night Gallery anticipates her rebirth as a Thermax poem spanning different media and time sculpted by our Mother thunderstorm Samara Golden." [1]

 

"Rape of the Mirror": Bedroom installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror essentially remakes Night Gallery into two cracked fantasy rooms: a lounge with Jacuzzi and ocean view, and an interior master bedroom. Powder blue carpeting has been installed throughout the gallery, and the walls have been painted a similar color. Tall, empty, Ikea-style bookshelves loom everywhere. A few strange tchotchkes populate the bedroom; a single eye peers into the "window" of the lounge, which is also outfitted with an elaborate stereo system.

It's all very plush on the surface, but look closer and the whole shebang falls apart; almost all of the objects are created out of R-Max, a thin and flimsy foam board that's used to insulate homes. Give one of the shelves the lightest push and it'll fall over; try to sit on the bed and it will promptly cave in. The artifice here is touching -- it's as though a child has worked really hard to make the adult dollhouse of her dreams. Folded into this sense of longing is a sinister streak as well; violent scratches mar the surface of the bed, and the sheets dissolve into a shattered mirror, reflecting images from two video screens. On the sound system, Golden's voice can be heard singing a version of Brian Wilson's melancholy '’Til I Die.'" [2]

[LEFT] "Rape of the Mirror" Beachside installation (detail), 2011; Mixed media and Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery [RIGHT] "Rape of the Mirror": Stereos (detail), 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror": Bedroom installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Video feeds, positioned throughout the installation, play a key role. The large projection in the lounge gives the illusion of crashing waves outside of a window, while two projections in the bedroom spool through every image and video taken on Golden's iPhone in the last year. Others are live interactive feeds, providing opportunities for you to see yourself or others embedded within the artwork; Golden uses a nifty green screen effect so that captured bodies become canvases for projections. Overall, the video feeds function like wormholes enabling transportation and dialogue throughout the installation.

It's clear that this work is highly personal, but it's also highly absorbing. Golden has helpfully provided a comfortable sofa between these two rooms, so that viewers can have a leisurely place to sit and contemplate the work. This helps with soaking in the work's subtle details, and it also makes you feel like you're in it, like you're part of the movie set that the artist has created. Golden has been making interactive video/sculpture installations for some time, but this one feels more open and expansive than her previous efforts. Rape of the Mirror quietly invites you into its world, then takes you into others if you're willing." [2]

[LEFT] "Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Max Schwartz [RIGHT] "Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

TEXT [1] BY SAMARA GOLDEN, TAKEN FROM NIGHT GALLERY'S ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE, NOVEMBER 2011; TEXT [2] BY CAROL CHEH, TAKEN FROM LA WEEKLY, 11.22.2011; ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Monday
Jul162012

Edit the Sad Parts: "How Should A Person Be," Paul Fortune, Personal Branding

GANG OF FOUR: I LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM

ELASTICA: IMAGE CHANGE

 

"How should a person be?

For years and years I asked it of everyone I met. I was always watching to see what they were going to do in any situation, so I could do it too. I was always listening to their answers, so if I liked them, I could make them my answers too. I noticed the way people dressed, the way they treated their lovers—in everyone, there was something to envy. You can admire anyone for being themselves. It’s hard not to, when everyone’s so good at it. But when you think of them all together like that, how can you choose?

I admired all the great personalities down through time, like Andy Warhol and Oscar Wilde. They seemed to be so perfectly themselves in every way. I didn’t think, Those are great souls, but I did think, Those are some great personalities for our age. Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein — they did things, but they were things.

I know that personality is just an invention of the news media. I know that character exists from the outside alone. I know that inside the body there’s just temperature. So how do you build your soul? At a certain point, I know, you have to forget about your soul and just do the work you’re required to do. To go on and on about your soul is to miss the whole point of life. I could say that with more certainty if I knew the whole point of life. To worry too much about Oscar Wilde and Andy Warhol is just a lot of vanity." [1]

"How should a person be? I sometimes wonder about it, and I can’t help answering like this: a celebrity. But for all that I love celebrities, I would never move somewhere that celebrities actually exist. My hope is to live a simple life, in a simple place, where there’s only one example of everything.

By a simple life, I mean a life of undying fame that I don’t have to participate in. I don’t want anything to change, except to be as famous as one can be, but without that changing anything. Everyone would know in their hearts that I am the most famous person alive—but not talk about it too much. And for no one to be too interested in taking my picture, for they’d all carry around in their heads an image of me that was unchanging, startling, and magnetic. No one has to know what I think, for I don’t really think anything at all, and no one has to know the details of my life, for there are no good details to know. It is the quality of fame one is after here, without any of its qualities." [1]

 

"The great interior designer Paul Fortune has helped shape David Fincher’s Los Feliz home, made a marvel of Mark Jacobs’s Paris apartment, and created a landmark with a glamorous renovation of the iconic Sunset Tower hotel.  He put the first Cadillac through the roof of the Hard Rock, and moved a Hollywood craftsman house across a parking lot to make the gem that was Les Deux Cafés.  Inhabiting a space somewhere between David Bowie and James Bond, Paul is himself a paragon of taste and panache—his devotees run the gamut from furniture dealers to fashion designers to film directors (to this end, dig Fortune’s cameos in both Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and her ex-husband Spike Jonze’s Adaptation).

 

Born in Liverpool and educated in London, Fortune moved to New York and then Oregon before he stumbled on Los Angeles and the rumored gin hideout for Laurel & Hardy.  At once a love affair was born.  The then graphic artist, and later music video director, set to work making the ‘20s house—a strange mogrel in 1978 of its country cabin bones and a former owner’s Mutiny on the Bounty-themed nautica—into a home.  The ever-evolving space, most recently gifted a pool and outdoor shower, is now every bit the beauty and the celebrity as its notorious guests.

 

Shirking gimmickry for timeless essentials, Fortune has turned his hilltop redoubt into something of a legend, and in the process made himself a master of the form. His look is ultimately the real LA: the green and white stripes of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the lilting palms, the sunshine, rough-hewn stone walls, Prada suits…

 

Chris Wallace: Wait, how have you managed to make sunshine your  look?

 

Paul Fortune: It’s true. After my childhood in the North of England the California light was irresistible, but now I’m getting nostalgic for gloomy, grey vistas. The grass is always greener… or greyer.

 

CW: Every designer and artist I know is an enormous fan of your work, of your way . And it does seem to me that your signature, your vibe, is more of a vibe than a specific template or grouping of materials.  It is more like a lifestyle. A space bearing your touch is incredibly chic—I mean, impeccable—but also feels safe to flop around in, to smoke in, to live  in. How are you able to achieve that?

 

PF: I don’t do a signature look so much as create an atmosphere.  It’s really art direction, which is not just about the furniture but also the space, the light, the people in the space, tantalizing fragrances, delicious cocktails… I think it’s absurd to force a “style” onto a place when all you really have to do is coax its true personality out with the right elements. There is too much ego in design and not enough empathy. There is also too much emphasis on the new groovy next thing. If you look at a magazine like the World of Interiors, you see that the best design vernacular is consistent in some way—using a certain set of rules or constraint, but making a lasting and timeless effect. I think there are many current designers (and I use that word loosely, very loosely) whose work will never stand the test of time.  You constantly see some effect—explosive colour, chandeliers in gardens, the 70s—that suddenly is everywhere and becomes mass, and, consequently, a ghastly blight. It’s like reality TV, people mistake it for something real, when in fact it’s the opposite. Really effective design is truly 'green.' It lasts." [2]

 

 

 

"CW: Where did your sense of design come from?

 

PF: I was always fascinated by environments other than my own and would sit glued to the TV, watching Hollywood movies from the 30s and 40s, American sitcoms of the ’60s, whatever, agape at the scale, glamour, styles and general strangeness. I would re-create favorite scenes in our garage for my family, forcing my cousins into silly costumes and faking the sets. My re-creation of the barge seduction scene from de Mille’s Cleopatra was a big hit (with myself as Cleopatra of course), though the Dads were mortified.

 

CW: But it was beautiful.

 

PF: In my eyes of course.  But then you have to be gay to be a good decorator—sorry, just look at the facts. You can count the number of straight decorators on one hand… barely. Why is that? Maybe gays are more aware of their surroundings.  But then there are some hideous gay decorators too so we have to discount the gay factor—but not entirely. It’s still a requisite somehow. Maybe at birth the fairy Godmother gives you the gift of perfect taste as you have to have some compensation for all the slurs and barbs your gay life will have to endure (not that I had to endure that many personally; everyone at an all boys Catholic school is available at one time or another).  For me, creating a perfect cocoon was an answer and reaction to who I was and how I needed to cope with life." [2]

 

 

"There are certain people who do not feel like they were raised by wolves, and these are the ones who make the world tick. These are the ones who keep everything functioning so the rest of us can worry about what kind of person we should be. I have read all the books and I know what they say: You — but better in every way. And yet there are so many ways of being better, and these ways can contradict one another!" [1]

 

 

"CW: Did you ever have heroes, role models, icons?  Do you now?

 

PF: I’ve never had heroes or role models (dangerous concept I feel), except for writers, perhaps, who were a major outlet for my fantasies as a child, and still are.

 

But I do admire certain people who have managed to create a unique world: Dutch connoisseur and collector Axel Vervoordt, for instance; Yves St Laurent, his houses were extraordinary and the realization of his very gay sensibility; Baroness Karen Blixen, who led the ultimate lifestyle driven life; Jean Micheal Frank, the most exacting decorator ever—and a tortured queen who jumped out of a window in NYC in a perfectly cut grey flannel suit (he wore ONLY grey flannel—even his swimsuit was flannel!); Ronald Firbank, an Edwardian dandy and meticulous chronicler of a fantastic world and extraordinary people; etc, etc.

 

CW: How have you evolved your aesthetic?

 

PF: Practice, patience and constantly looking at everything." [2]

 

 

 

 

"CW: Is there a red thread to be found throughout?  Is there a consistent nugget that remains—beneath clients’ requests, changing times, locales, etc—that is Paul Fortune?

 

PF: Nothing blatant.  A house or any piece of design should gradually reveal itself over time. I still find aspects of the house I’ve lived in for 30 years a revelation and this is inspiring and educational. Nothing is done; everything is in flux. The most successful interiors invite repeated visits with continued appreciation—the more banal and trendy interiors, the opposite (do you want to hang out in that groovy hotel lobby again? I don’t think so).

 

We had an amazing storm last week and the light was ravishing. I took the afternoon off and made a pot of white tea and sat by a window watching the rain falling through a grove of eucalyptus trees… mesmerizing. Nature never disappoints. Except I hate the whole food chain thing—why can’t all animals be vegetarian?" [2]

 

 

 

"CW: These are tough times. Everyone thinks they can do it themselves and need not hire a designer. House & Garden, where you were an editor, closes after 105 years…  How do you deal?

 

PF: I drink a lot!!

 

Living these days I must say is a constant challenge for the conscious person (or even the semi–conscious person). Living in America for over 30 years has been both exhilarating and disappointing. To see so much beauty and invention destroyed and reduced to the lowest level is frankly heartbreaking but I’m trying to be Buddhist about it all and do what I can.

 

Restoring the Sunset Tower was a way for me to give back to Hollywood a little of the feel and look of a more gracious and inviting era.  Don’t tell me it’s a better world now. It can and should be a better place. Look for the best and don’t accept the shit they are dumping on you. There are alternatives, recognize them and insist on them." [2]

 

 

 

"For so many years I have written soul like this: sould. I make no other consistent typo. A girl I met in France once said, Cheer up! Maybe it doesn’t actually mean you’ve sold your soul — I was staring unhappily into my beer — but rather that you never had a soul to sell.

We were having Indian food. The man next to us was an Englishman and he brightened up. He said, It is so nice to hear English being spoken here! I haven’t heard any English in weeks. We tried not to smile, for smiling only encourages men to bore you and waste your time.

I thought about what that girl had said for a week. I was determined to start the task I had long been putting off, having for too long imagined it would take care of itself in the course of things, without my paying attention to it, all the while knowing in my heart that I was avoiding it, trying to patch myself together with my admiration for the traits I saw so clearly in everyone else. I said to myself sternly, It’s time to stop asking questions of other people. It is time to just go in a cocoon and spin your soul. But when I got back to the city, I neglected this plan in favour of hanging out with my friends every night of the week, just as I had been doing before I’d left for the Continent." [1]


FIRST IMAGE, OF PAUL FORTUNE'S "EARTHQUAKE ROOM," TAKEN FROM "FREESTYLE: THE NEW ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN FROM LOS ANGELES" BY TIM STREET PORTER, 1986; IMAGES OF PAUL FORTUNE'S LAUREL CANYON HOME ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN HOUSE & GARDEN, 2004; IMAGES OF MICHELLE WILLIAMS, PAUL JASMIN AND PAUL FORTUNE IN THE SAME HOME BY SCOTT STERNBERG FOR BAND OF OUTSIDERS, FALL '08; PORTRAIT OF PAUL FORTUNE SMOKING BY ARI MICHELSON; TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM "HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE" BY SHEILA HETI; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL FORTUNE BY CHRIS WALLACE FOR DOSSIER, 2010; "TOP FIVE PERSONAL BRANDING MYTHS" IMAGES TAKEN FROM PERSONALBRANDINGBLOG.COM