10 Tips for the Second Time LA Tourist, Calif.

It’s inevitable that, as a first time visitor to Los Angeles, you will be drawn to its better known sights like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Venice’s Muscle Beach. I am all for it; the media and motion picture industries are part of Los Angeles’ DNA, and what we might read about, watch on TV, or see in the movies can greatly influence our itinerary choice. It’s on the second trip that you may want to reconsider the Star Line bus tour and tourist-friendly draws however, and explore the layers beneath LA’s celluloid surface.  What you’ll find is a patchwork of cities and neighborhoods that enrich the county’s culture and communities.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you sidestep the well trodden tourist path:

1. Mulholland Drive – Perhaps one of the most appealing things about LA, aside from its warm climate, is its proximity to the ocean and mountains. To see it from top to tail, rent a car and cruise along the 21-mile stretch of winding Mulholland Drive. The road will take you through the Hollywood Hills, over the Valley, and to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Tip: GPS is essential in navigating this road as it is broken up in parts.

An overlook on Mulholland Drive - looking at LA's downtown

From Mulholland Drive, looking over LA’s downtown

2. Hollywood – LA looks different when you look at it through the letters of the Hollywood sign. To get to the top of Mt. Lee, Google: Beachwood Drive and Hollyridge Trail. There’s room for parking and it’s about a 40 minute walk, one way. Tip: Keep on track by staying left of the trail.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

3. Griffith Park – Los Angeles is home to a variety of architecture; Moby even has a blog dedicated to it: Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog. A beautiful example is The Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. At once futuristic and historic, the details of its precast building blocks harken to Mayan times; you may also remember the house from the 1980’s movie Bladerunner. Tip: Address is 2607 Glendower Ave, Loz Feliz.

Part of the Ennis House

Part of the Ennis House

4. Echo Park – Echo Park Avenue has the artisan feel. Street art colours the hilly neighbourhood; cafes offer pour over coffees for $5 a cup. Located close to downtown LA, the area feels like it’s on the cusp of something big. Tip: Go to FIX for a pour over coffee – order anything from the “Handsome Coffee Roasters” line. Pazzo Gelato on Sunset Blvd offers $1 scoops during its 4-6pm Happy Hour. The Pear Sorbetto is highly recommended.

Top: European Yoghurt, Strawberry Custard Gelato; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelaro

Top: European Yoghurt, and Strawberry Custard Gelatos; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelato

5. Silver Lake – More than 500 staircases around Los Angeles used to serve its public transportation system; now they are a good excuse to stairwalk and see a neighbourhood up close. An excellent starting point for the novice is the Music Box Stair Loop in burgeoning Silver Lake, made famous by the movie starring Laurel and Hardy. Tip: Check out Walks @ Secret Stairs-LA for more routes. The website counts the Music Box set to have 133 steps across multiple landings as part of a 2.5 mile loop.

The shaky looking "Music Box" Steps

The shaky looking “Music Box” Steps

6. Downtown LA – Newly built condos in the area have attracted a young entrepreneurial community. The Art District has injected a creative vibe in this part of town, and galleries can be found along Spring and Main Sts between 2nd and 9th. Tip: Check out a couple of the laid back eating spots: go to Urth Caffe on Hewitt St for a Moroccan Mint Latte, or a Belgian Beer at Wurtskuche on East 3rd.

Arts District

Arts District

7. Westwood – In the midst of a cluster of office buildings rests Westwood Village Park Memorial Cemetery. Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, and other stars are buried here. Tip: Located at 1218 Glendon Avenue, the narrow street looks like the entrance to a parking lot – it’s easy to overlook.

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

8. Pacific Palisades – For a panoramic scene that spans downtown LA to the ocean, hike to the top of the Los Liones trail. It’s 2 miles each way and not too strenuous but wear your sneakers. Tip: Go on a sunny day for a clear view.

At the top of the Los Liones trail - Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

At the top of the Los Liones trail – Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

9. Malibu – Perhaps one of the loveliest museums in LA is The Getty Villa. High up in the mountains, with the Pacific as the backdrop, it feels Mediterranean – manicured gardens, fountains, and a herb garden surround a villa that houses antiquities and sculpture collections. Tip: Allocate some time to lunch on wine and cheese in the courtyard, but don’t forget to reserve your entry free tickets on http://www.getty.edu prior to visiting.

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

10. Venice Beach – The Pacific is alluring, the boardwalk is not. Navigate the Venice Canal Walk in the direction of Abbot Kinney – a retail stretch of road where you’ll build up an appetite as you window shop. Tip: Go to Gjelina for an excellent modern Italian meal, or stop at TOMS for a pair of shoes. Browse as you sip on an espresso made to order from their in-store coffee bar.

Inside the TOMS store

Inside the TOMS store

Forever Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright’s building made it socially and culturally acceptable for an architect to design a highly expressive, intensely personal museum. In this sense almost every museum of our time is a child of the Guggenheim. ~ Paul Goldberger

Today is Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959), architect of the loved Guggenheim Museum in New York. According to architect Philip Johnson, this is Wright’s ‘greatest building, New York’s greatest building.’

There is an old saying about the Guggenheim; you come to see Kandinsky or Picasso, but you stay to see Frank Lloyd Wright. ~ Ultan Guilfoyle

Unfortunately, Wright didn’t get to see the museum open as he passed away 6 months prior.

I wrote about the Guggenheim, and the controversy surrounding it, in a previous blog post, here: The Guggenheim Museum: in ‘All’ its glory

On the West Coast, one of his residential achievements, made famous in particular by the movie Bladerunner, is the Ennis House. Set in the hills of Los Feliz with wonderful views over a low lying Los Angeles, Wright designed the home for Charles and Mabel Ennis in 1923. It was built a year later.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed over 1000 structures, and completed half of them.

I’ll leave you with a quote by the architect himself that, for me, sums up the success and beauty of these two works especially:

Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.

Through the Ennis House gates you can see Los Angeles


A Glimpse: Kaleidoscopic Kalifornia

Looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses…

Well, any pair of sunglasses will do as a sun-drenched Southern California – affectionately referred to as SoCal – naturally dons a pink tinged hue.

Having lived in San Clemente and Los Angeles for two years, it was exhilarating to return to the old stomping grounds after over a year-long absence. Complete immersion meant a daily embrace of the great outdoors; watching the changing colours of an always spectacular sunset; and falling, with ease, into a laid-back lifestyle that included much coffee-and-carb indulgence by day, and pressing of lip-to-champagne flute by night.

Sun-soaking and gastronomy aside (these activities were/are by no means mutually exclusive), admiring SoCal’s vistas was a soul-awakener. Appreciating its wild and urban landscapes through a fresh pair of eyes inevitably brought to mind the cliché: “The grass is always greener…”

What I love about SoCal are those pops of colour that are woven into its fabric, be it natural or with compliments of a street artist. Like a daily vitamin boost, the bright paintbox used to decorate the region provides a natural high; the various shades of bright-against-brighter are a quick fix to lift the spirit, even when rolling out of bed to welcome a fog-induced or overcast day.

All the while, a predominance of pink against green abounds.

During my travels in SoCal, I attempted to throw any, and all, of its stereotypes to the wind. I wanted to appreciate it from a grass-roots level; at the same time, acknowledge those industries – film, architecture, arts – that put its cities on the map.

I achieved that as best I could in a short space of time. The evidence is in the details.

Enjoy the prologue to a series of posts that I’m looking forward to dedicating to SoCal’s natural and urban palette. Starting from the southermost point of the trip, in Carlsbad, and ending in Los Angeles County – to the north, I hope you’ll join me on this trip.

A note of caution: the communities of SoCal are so diverse and spread out, you may feel as if you’re jumping from town, to ‘hood, to hilltop – all in one post. No fear: this is simply an introduction.

I’d be interested in your feedback – opinions, perceptions, and experiences – of Southern California. What you love about it, and what you don’t; what you may associate with it, and what may come as a surprise to you.

“Every time you can walk in another person’s shoes, the world is a slightly better place.” ~Anthony Bourdain

For now, enjoy an introduction to the makeup of SoCal!

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A blindingly bright sun, vast spaces, and the smell of a nearby ocean are instant reminders as to why Southern California is one of the best places to live well.

CARLSBAD, SAN DIEGO COUNTY

The Flower Fields are located in the coastal city of Carlsbad – a necessary stop for those who have always dreamt of being engulfed in a mass of blooms, not unlike those of Dutch tulip fields. Here, the slopes of the hills at Carlsbad Ranch are painted in stripes of yellow, white, purple, orange, and red, in a grid-like formation; crops of ranunculus flower for 2 months of the year during the spring. Symbolic of new life – regeneration through replanted bulbs – this sea of blooms set against a backdrop of infinite blue is a dazzling sight.

Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts. ~ Sigmund Freud

I’ve always thought my flowers had souls. ~ Myrtle Reed

A scenic drive, further up the coast…

SAN CLEMENTE, ORANGE COUNTY

… along Route 5, a highway edged by palms and decorated with a glistening ground-cover of the flowering evergreen Purple Ice plant; past the military site of Camp Pendleton, after which the road eventually leads into the Nixon-associated town of San Clemente, in Orange County (OC).

The hot pink of Bougainvillea is so prominent; the plant’s foliage and blooms spill over the terraces of Spanish Colonial styled villas and fringe the pathways of San Clemente’s residential streets.

A sparkly ocean mesmerises visitors and residents; its waves seduce surfers. Located close to the equator, the sun always shines brighter in this vacation town.

A little more north…

LAGUNA BEACH, ORANGE COUNTY

A leisurely twenty minute ocean-side drive ebbs and flows as the road leads into luxe Laguna Beach. Inspiration for artists since the 1800s, its steep cliffs are testament to the beauty of an unspoiled landscape; their rugged faces filled with homes, as well as an assortment of native shrubbery and flowers, punctuated by statuesque palms along the upper edges.

Laguna: a retreat for writers, Hollywood stars, and artists. Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, John Steinbeck, and Mickey Rooney escaped here. The house below is located in the space where Bette Davis’ former home stood.

The expanse of blue hues viewed from the Rooftop Lounge of the historic La Casa del Camino Hotel call for endless champagne toasts. Twist my arm.

I’ve always found that seafood served near the ocean tastes better. Decadent eel sushi and cold bold sake at Hapi Sushi; the restaurant’s name, perhaps a spin on the oft-felt emotion of travelers and residents who wrap themselves in Laguna’s lush surroundings.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Traveling a couple of hours, away from the OC and into Los Angeles County. The freeway traffic flow is a steady one, for the most part.

GRIFFITH PARK, LA

In an inland direction: LA’s urban sprawl is made up of a number of vastly different communities. The city boasts an enviable sunset – its brush stroke of pink, yellow, purple and gold along the horizon is best seen from Griffith Observatory, up in the hills near Griffith Park.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES

Minutes away – say 15 or so, sans traffic – downtown LA bustles. Surprisingly easy to navigate, this part of the county is undergoing a revival. Art galleries, historic architecture, and new dining spots feed off of one another in an area on the up. Downtown living means escapism in the midst of skyscrapers. Perfect example: Figueroa Hotel’s pool terrace is a resting spot for the uninhibited in the midst of surrounding commerce.

Nearby, the fruits borne by a neighbourhood undergoing gentrification: lofts, Porshes, and blushing blooms.

In the midst of it all, a creative community resides; its art colours a still-industrial neighbourhood.

In another part of downtown, more art abounds. Amongst institutions dedicated to contemporary works and music, stands an undulating design by Frank Gehry: the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Reminiscent of SoCal’s natural surroundings, a part of its architecture takes on the look of an unopened tulip; even a rosebud, nipped.

Further afield, close to downtown LA…

MUSEUM ROW, LA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art makes for a bold statement through design, colour, and a palm-dominated landscape. Its exterior is as beautiful as its art filled interior.

Better still: the Renzo Piano designed outdoor/indoor dining space – Ray’s and Stark Bar – doesn’t shy away from serving up heady liquid artworks of its own. Tequila, orange, and ice – such are the beverages prepared by innovators manning the liquor cabinet.

Onwards toward creative pastures of a different nature, not too far away…

SILVER LAKE, LA

Overcast skies don’t darken or dampen the ambiance of bohemian Silver Lake; the neighbourhood brims with street art, reflective of a creative community, alongside modern architecture. Case in point: modern architect Robert Neutra’s former office is located here, by Silver Lake Reservoir.

What’s more, the resident trend-setters take their coffee very seriously. Artisans on the rise.

BEVERLY HILLS, LA

The plush and posh Beverly Hills is emblematic of hedonism and history; well tended gardens, magnificent mansions, grand tree lined streets; once home to Marlon Brando, Lucille Ball,and Doris Day, and now home to Bill Cosby, Rod Stewart, and Diane Keaton.

Along its wide streets, playful architecture draws on LA’s cinematic roots….

.. and gives way to classic icons -pretty in pink, the famed Beverly Hills Hotel graces Sunset Boulevard.

Close by…

HOLLYWOOD, LA

A place where all the touristic action takes place. Yes, one may immediately think: Walk of Fame, the Wax Museum, and the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with handprints of celebrities implanted by its entrance. Think this once: see it all, appreciate it for what it’s worth, and move beyond the crowds.

Seek out the Cirque du Soleil, Kodak Theatre, Capitol Records Building, Amoeba Records; perhaps make some time for a glass of bubbly at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Hike even, and be wowed by viewing the Hollywood Reservoir and landmark Hollywood sign, up close.

HOLLYWOOD HILLS, LA

Spectacular architecture is built into Hollywood’s hilly backdrop; the Hills are alive with modern homes, Mediterranean inspired villas, and imaginative designs of a whole other level – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House made famous by Bladerunner, and John Lautner’s Chemosphere House (below), are a couple of impressive name-droppers.

Meanwhile, modern lines and pink storefronts dominate on nearby Melrose Avenue, in West Hollywood.

Back to the coast…

MALIBU, LA

Dr Feelgood: breathing in the salty air, courtesy of the Pacific, does the soul alot of good.

In this part of LA, multi-million dollar homes line the water’s edge and are set into its steep hills. Malibu Pier offers spectacular 360 degree views – for free.

Malibu – home to alcoves and private beaches, wineries, acclaimed Nobu restaurant, and the delightful Mediterranean-inspired Getty Villa. From this museum, you can view the ocean whilst staying cool in the mountains.

Its gardens are worthy of a visit alone.

Down South from Malibu…

SANTA MONICA, LA

This is the place for beachside city living and a haven for outdoor exercise pursuits – located only a half hour away from the Hollywood Hills. It’s expanse of beach is interrupted by a few volleyball courts, lifeguard huts, and a boardwalk catering to cyclists, dog-walkers, joggers, roller-bladers, and leisurely strollers.

The Santa Monica Pier can be seen from miles away; so much larger upon closer inspection. A few streets back from the beach, the city offers boutique shopping and a location of the ever-popular Urth Caffe – this is an excellent spot for coffee and farm-to-table dining.

Adjoining Santa Monica is the trendier…

VENICE, LA

Art colours the streets; restaurants are full at noon; galleries, boutiques, and homewares stores are made for window shopping and browsing. Whilst it may be known for the famed boardwalk along its Muscle Beach, a stroll along Venice’s main street, Abbott Kinney, and a meander alongside the town’s canals is a much more pleasurable experience.

In closing…

Southern California, from sunrise (if you’re up) to sunset is a beautiful area of the US. By virtue of geographic location alone, the light that colours the horizon is sublime; its ever changing hues gently unfurl from pink, to purple, to burnt yellow, to gold. Yet it is the added drama of the region’s bold urban and natural landscape that makes the experience all the more unique and memorable.

From one community to the next, colour abounds – in its architecture, natural landscaping, art, people. An entertaining kaleidoscope.

This is a sampler of SoCal; a taste of things to come.

Shulman Inspired, California Desired

I think it’s just a beautiful way of thinking of my dad and Los Angeles as siblings. They really did grow up together ~ Judy McKee, daughter of Julius Shulman

Shulman’s pictures have this base of romance to them. His work represents a certain ideal that happened years ago ~ Ed Ruscha, artist

History is strange. Here, it becomes mystical ~ Julius Shulman, on Los Angeles

Singleton House, Los Angeles, 1960 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph, Architect

It is possible that in a span of 24 hours I have garnered a greater appreciation for Californian architecture than ever before; attributed largely to the spirit and optimism of one of the leading photographers of the 20th century, Julius Schulman (1910-2009).

Sparked whilst viewing the 90-minute documentary, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman, I have fellow bloggers, All About Travel and The Way I See It, to thank for recommending it to me in response to my Vintage Inspired California post.

I was ordained to become a photographer, I was destined... ~ Julius Shulman

Miller House, Palm Springs, 1937-41 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph , Architect

Film director and producer Eric Bricker did an excellent job in providing a glimpse into the life of Mr. Shulman. Filmed when he was already in his mid-nineties, Shulman came across as a man of quick wit who exuded joy for just living life. He had an unwavering love for Los Angeles and exibited a strong passion for his craft.

Life is good. Life can be beautiful. What more can I ask? ~ Schulman, on receiving his Honorary degree from Westbury University, CA at age of 90-something.

University of California, Irvine, 1968 ~ William L. Pereira Associates , Architect

The film introduces us to Shulman in the grounds of his Los Angeles home, located high in the Hollywood Hills. It then traces the history of his work through personal recollections, documents the difficult process of handing over his works to the Getty Center, and leads us into the historical present – when Shulman was honoured with a Doctorate of Architecture. The whole way through the film, I was wishing I had researched his work earlier; I wish I had met him.

The whole story of my life will now be transposed to Mr. Getty’s Hall ~ Julius Shulman

Shulman House, Los Angeles, 1951 ~ Soriano, Raphael, Architect

Shulman House - another perspective

Julius Shulman’s Home designed by Raphael Soriano, 1951. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Having lived in Southern California for a couple of years, from 2008 -10, I was drawn to the simplicity of LA’s modernist architecture; designs similar to those Shulman first photographed that subsequently propelled him to the stature of  “most important architectural photographer in history,” as described by gallery owner Craig Krull.

Craig Krull exhibited Shulman’s photographs in an art show – he believed Shulman elevated the genre of commercial architectural photography to a fine art form – and was instrumental in the final decision for selecting The Getty Research Insitute as the ideal institution to archive the photographer’s collection of works.

Hensman House, Los Angeles, 1976

AISI "Style in Steel Home", Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

AISI "Style in Steel Home", Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

Franks House, Los Angeles, 1968 ~ Farber, Rick, Architect

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

In 1936, having just returned to L.A. from a dismal seven year stint at University of California Berkeley, Shulman accompanied a draftsman to the Kun Residence of pioneering modernist architect, Richard Neutra. Still under construction, Shulman took 6 photographs of the home with a Kodak Vest Pocket 127-format camera. Upon being shown the photos, Neutra noted that they “revealed the essence of my design”. He bought the photos and asked Shulman to photograph more of his houses.

“March 5, 1936 — I remember the day — we shook hands for the first time,” Shulman had said in an interview with the LA Times. “I met Richard Neutra, and that was the day I became a photographer.”*

That’s no small feat for someone who dropped out of UC Berkeley on a whim to pursue a more creative career path.

Julius Shulman and architect Richard Neutra at the Tremaine House, Los Angeles, 1947

It was the modernist aesthetic of SoCal’s architecture, designed by emerging architects as well as more established masters – the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, visionary John Lautner, and of course Neutra – that provided Shulman with his photogenic subjects.

His work will survive me.  Film is stronger and good glossy prints are easier to ship than brute concrete, stainless steel, or even ideas ~ Richard Neutra

High profile magazines, such as LIFE and Arts and Architecture, introduced his interpretation of the West Coast lifestyle to the rest of the world and helped elevate LA as a destination for progressive architecture, art and culture.

Shulman became an invaluable contributor to the burgeoning architectural movement not only as a correspondent but as talent scout and respected tastemaker as well ~ narrates Dustin Hoffman in Visual Acoustics.

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Shrine Civic Auditorium (Los Angeles, 1975 ~ Adelman, Abraham A. , Lansburgh, G. Albert, Austin, John C. W. - Architects

The Case Study House Program was an unprecedented experiment in architecture, run by Arts and Architecture Magazine. It was initiated with the intent of creating well-designed homes for the typical Post WWII family. Many designs were immortalised by Shulman’s lens. The photograph of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study 22, below, was described as one of the ‘most evocative images of 20th Century architecture’. See my Vintage Inspired California post for more examples from this program.

Case Study 22 ~ Koenig, Pierre, Architect

“Your pictures are incredible for an amateur and better than most professionals,” wrote Frank LLoyd Wright, in a note to Shulman after he’d photographed one of his designs.

You may recognise some of the interiors, below, from the movie: Bladerunner (Bradbury Building and Ennis House).

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Charles Ennis

Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1953-68 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Ennis Interior

Ennis House, Interior ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Storer House, Los Angeles, 1985 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Julius Shulman breathed life into his architectural photographs by capturing the harmony of homes within their surrounding landscapes, and by artfully composing interiors from a one point perspective – so that ‘the modern (would) unfold in a beautiful way.’

Somehow he’s able to put so much of himself into the vantage point that you feel his presence in the room even if he’s not in the frame ~ Tom Ford, designer

Shulman captured the essence of Modernist architecture – its form and function in tune with nature.

Malin House "Chemosphere", Los Angeles, 1961 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Burgess House, PalmSprings, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Burgess House, Palm Springs, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Silvertop, Los Angeles, 1980 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, 1966 ~ Yamasaki, Minoru, Architect

Ultimately though, it was Shulman’s spirit, attitude, and sense of humour that made him a success. In response to a question about the enjoyment and passion he exhibited for his photographic work, Shulman replied rhetorically, “Yes (I enjoy my work) – what else is there?”

I have this vision of him wandering around, whether it’s in the hills or in the town, seeking the world through his camera ~ Judy McKee describing Shulman’s jaunts in Los Angeles

Mobil Gas Station, Smith and Williams, Anaheim, 1956. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Johnny's, Los Angeles, 1956

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965 ~ William L. Pereira and Associates, Architect

Town & Country Restaurant, Palm Springs, 1949 ~ Jones, A. Quincy, Williams, Paul R., Architect

Shulman’s passion for his craft carried well into the last years of his life; he never really retired a career that spanned seventy years. Even in his nineties, he had no trouble directing his photographer associate, Juergen Nogai; he’d express his opinion, and firmly stood by it.

“I control what I call, the visual acoustics,” he said after a slight disagreement with Nogai whilst photographing Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles -  a scene depicted in Visual Acoustics.

Together, Nogai and Shulman collaborated on photographing close to 200 houses; revisiting locations previously photographed by Shulman as well as building a client list of new contemporary architects, including visionary Frank Gehry. NB: Schulman helped Gehry land his first client.

Blue Jay House, Los Angeles • Zoltan Pali, Architect. © Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai http://www.fabrikmagazine.com

Disney Hall, Los Angeles, Frank Gehry, Architect. Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai http://www.fabrikmagazine.com

Shulman’s spirit lives on through the rich legacy he left behind: from on-going exhibitions at The Getty Center - their archive includes 260,000 of Shulman’s negatives, transparencies and prints; to working with book publishers including TASCHEN; to forming the Julius Shulman Institute at Westbury University in Burbank, with goal of promoting an appreciation and understanding of the built environment, particularly as mediated by photography.**

Shulman remained a faithful steward to the modernist ideal. Ultimately his vast photographic archives would become an indispensable resource as public taste later turned enthusiastically back to modernism.~ Visual Acoustics

His archives have continued to be just that – a trove of inspiration; a visual reminder of the modernist movement that swept California in the early-mid 20th century, as well as a documentation of the development of LA as a city.

Robert L. Frost Memorial Auditorium, Culver City, 1963

San Diego Stadium, 1967 ~ Frank L. Hope & Associates, Architect

Stuart Pharmaceuticals, Pasadena, 1958 ~ Stone, Edward Durell, Architect

Looking Over Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles From Mount Hollywood, 1936. (© Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

This photograph was taken in 1936, a year after the Griffith Observatory had opened, bringing scientific advancement to a publicly accessible peak in Griffith Park. http://www.tabletmag.com

* http://www.latimes.com/features/ **http://architecture.woodbury.edu

Turning to a New Year, and thank you to…

“Every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca

Well, it was a wonderful way to see in the New Year – the weather in New York was comfortably chilly, which made for an even more enjoyable night out sans any sign of a cold snap, slush or snow. Relaxing with excellent company over a bountiful dinner against pristine, million dollar views of Manhattan was pure indulgence, as was the endless champagne sipping, midnight strolling and fireworks watching. Welcome twentytwelve!

Such a good start to 2012 was further enhanced by two fellow bloggers,  Pleasantries & Pit Bulls and lpphotosblog, who have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. It’s an honour to be recognised by such thoughtful and inspiring authors+photographers in this way and I thank them both for giving me this New Year’s present!

As I recently posted on this award, I’d like to dedicate this post to the two blogs as my token of thanks. It is a showcase of images from New York that I have entitled, Turning to a New Year. From the lights of Brooklyn and Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, to the perfect day that became New Year’s Day, the photos provide a night & day glimpse of how New York celebrated from another vantage point (that didn’t include a ball drop). A fellow New Yorker, I hope lpphotosblog will recognise some of the vistas.

Seeing as it is New Year’s Day and I do not have a list of resolutions to share, I’ve interspersed quotes about the present moment in response to the recent post by Pleasantries & Pit Bulls: Resolutions: Friend or Foe?

All this good fortune combined has been a fine way to start off the brand new year and I extend the very best wishes to everyone for 2012. Enjoy!

“There’s no time like the present.” ~ Proverb

Views and drinks at Bubby's in Dumbo, Brooklyn on NYE (2011).

“The meeting of two eternities, the past and future….is precisely the present moment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau  

A night time stroll by the Manhattan Bridge with Williamsburg Bridge in background, and Empire State to left.

“People are always asking about the good old days.  I say, why don’t you say the good now days?” ~ Robert M. Young

...Past the Manhattan Bridge and into the bright lights of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” ~ George Orwell

Off to Brooklyn Heights to watch the fireworks. Moonlit ferry at Statue of Liberty, far left.

“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson

The decorated Empire State and Brooklyn Bridge, as seen from Brooklyn Heights.

“The living moment is everything.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Happy New Year! 12am fireworks

“No yesterdays are ever wasted for those who give themselves to today.”  ~ Brendan Francis

Fireworks from afar...

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Though clear enough to see their beautiful colours....

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”  ~ Cherokee Indian Proverb

... that vividly reflected off the water.

“The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Starting off the New Year with a walk over the Manhattan Bridge, New Year's Day (2012)...

“The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.” ~ L. Thomas Holdcroft

...and witnessing the effects of the past evening's festivities.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

"The sun is shining, the weather is sweet..." Bob Marley.

“Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes by so quick you can hardly catch it going.” ~ Tennessee Williams

A swift capture through the bridge's grills of a sightseeing ferry -a perfect day for it.

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Never-seen-before-road-signage.

“I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough.” ~ Albert Einstein

The Manhattan Bridge walk ends in Dumbo. A mural graces a wall on Water Street.

“Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

Curbed Xmas trees outside an art gallery.

“If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine.” ~ Morris West

The view from Brooklyn Bridge Park is simply stunning.

“If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.  If you don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.” ~ Senegalese Proverb

Quiet contemplation - Brooklyn Bridge to left, Manhattan Bridge to right.

A jug fills drop by drop. ” ~ Buddha

Meaningful message on nearby scaffolding...

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Families gathering by the water's edge (Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, by day).

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~ Buddha

"Jane's Carousel" against the Manhattan Bridge.

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

And then, a leisurely walk back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge!

The Guggenheim Museum: in ‘All’ its glory

In a city like New York, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. And if you do, you’ve got to have something exceptional to show for it. Such is the case with architecture in the city; such is the case with its art.

The Guggenheim Museum has been around for over half a century. A celebrated institution, the building is an artwork unto itself; aesthetically, it has been subject to a fair amount of controversy. Some say that Frank Lloyd Wright ‘designed his building as an asymmetric nose-thumbing at the rigid order of New York’s streets and architecture’[1]; others believe that he was an architect ahead of his time.

“Mr. Wright’s greatest building, New York’s greatest building.” said Architect Philip Johnson, “one of the greatest rooms of the 20th century.”[2]

The glorious Guggenheim

Its contested expansion in 1992 (a rectangular annex was added to the museum’s backdrop) provoked further outrage and debate. Woody Allen likened its new scape to a “giant lavatory basin”.[3] And, though the museum sits directly across from Central Park’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Ms. Onassis was in unison.

I have always loved The Guggenheim Museum. Located on the Upper East Side’s Fifth Avenue, to me it is emblematic of New York’s landscape; an architectural feat that I continue to be in awe of. Whether looking at it from the outside or from the within, it’s a fascinating structure that stands the test of time and continues to inspire. As for its art – the museum’s renowned permanent collection measures up to whatever temporary exhibit may be on show.

Panoramic View

If you haven’t ever seen or visited The Guggenheim, picture a cylindrically shaped building resembling a coffee mug; its exterior designed to look like a spring, akin to a perfectly curled orange peel – in white. The art gallery is housed in the building’s walled interior and accessed by a spiral walkway that rounds and rounds its way to the top. (If you’ve seen the movie, The International, featuring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, you may remember a lengthy action scene that took place in [a replica of] the museum’s interior).

The primary focus is designed to be on the art showcased along the inside of the building’s circumference, though balconies do look over its centre, which is punctuated by a domed skylight high above. Off of the walkway are four levels worth of gallery rooms, exhibiting Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and contemporary art works.

There is an old saying about the Guggenheim; you come to see Kandinsky or Picasso, but you stay to see Frank Lloyd Wright.”[4]

Interior: balconies

Sky-lit balconies

Recently, I visited The Guggenheim to see the popular, yet equally lauded and criticized exhibit, Maurizio Cattelan: All. Said to be the final show of the artist-going-into-retirement, his retrospective hangs like a bejeweled chandelier of giant proportions in the heart of the museum’s rotunda, illuminated by the skylight immediately above.

Unfamiliar with Maurizio Cattelan’s works until recently, I was intrigued to view the exhibition that has been the subject of a number of mixed reviews.

“Hailed simultaneously as a provocateur, prankster, and tragic poet of our times, Maurizio Cattelan (b.1960, Padua, Italy) has created some of the most unforgettable images in recent contemporary art.”[5]

Maurizio Cattelan: All

Known for his rebellious nature, it is fitting that Cattelan’s final artwork/installation be shown at The Guggenheim. Not a stranger to controversy either, this is probably best exemplified in his past reactions over the anxiety of exhibiting his art:

~unable to generate any ideas for his first solo exhibit, Cattelan instead placed a sign on the locked door of the gallery that read: Torno Subito or ”Be Back Soon”. (This plastic sign was branded an artwork in 1989.);

~having caved under the pressure of the Venice Biennale, and consequently with no work to show, he leased his allotted space to an agency who put a billboard in its place. (Branded an artwork too, he titled it: Working is a Bad Job (1993).)

Perfume advertisement placed in the Venice Biennale space, 1993

Cattelan has also been known to spread rumours about his artwork for reasons of self-promotion, and has been caught for creative theft.

“His source materials range widely, from popular culture, history, and organized religion to a meditation on the self that is at once humorous and profound… While bold and irreverent, the work is also deadly serious in its scathing critique of authority and the abuse of power.”[6]

Looking up on it All

All shows the majority of Cattelan’s works (with a couple of exceptions, given owners refused to pass them over), strung by ropes from a circular steel support structure. The overall feel of the exhibit is decidedly morbid; death is one of its stronger underlying themes. Perhaps the installation symbolizes a ‘mass execution’[7] of sorts.

Highly strung

Dismal undertones

Cattelan’s body of work extends over a 21 year long career; his style – satirical, political, and humorous. One of his earlier and more famous works includes La Nona Ora, a sculpture of Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite. Translated to “The Ninth Hour” (1999), the title implies the hour when Christ died on the Cross[8]. In 2000, this piece was shown in the Warsaw Zachęta National Gallery and “resulted in a public furor (that) ended in the resignation of Anda Rottenberg, the museum’s director, who refused to remove the work even after protests by members of parliament from a Catholic nationalist party, two of whom … attempted to succor the pope by picking him up from the ground.”[9].

A more recent work, titled ‘L.O.V.E.,’ an acronym in Italian for love, hate, vendetta, eternity, was erected near Milan’s stock market this year (2011). Referred to as ‘the finger’, the 36-foot white sculpture of a hand, with middle finger giving the birdie, was in response to the financial crisis of 2008. Read more here: WSJ.com.

Both these works hang in the installation as smaller interpretations of the originals. “I prefer to be attacked to being ignored.” Maurizio Cattelan

True to his character, even the way Cattelan’s installation has been executed deviates from the norm. Where the museum’s perimeter would be the showcase for artworks; for now, it stands empty. It is stark in its whiteness, devoid of any art, futuristic-looking. In a reversal, the focus is on the museum’s centre.

Empty gallery niches

It wouldn’t too far fetched to think that erecting the installation at the core of the rotunda was Cattelan’s way of paying homage to the artists petitioning against the building, decades ago: in 1956, a group of artists, including Willem de Koonig, submitted a complaint to The Guggenheim’s trustees about the museum’s less than ideal gallery space – the walls were too concave for hanging art; the floor, uneven; the low ceilings would mean spatial issues.

That said, with the focus on The Guggenheim’s centre, museum-goers can comfortably admire Cattelan’s installation from a distance instead of working their way around the potentially cramped quarters of the gallery’s niches.

Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and curator of Maurizio Cattelan: All, explains the museum’s standpoint:

“Cattelan’s career resists summation by any traditional exhibition format. Many of his early, action-based meditations are impossible to reconstruct, and his singular, iconic objects function best in isolation. (The exhibition) is thus a full-scale admission of the inadvisability of viewing his work within the context of a conventional chronological retrospective. The artist has resisted that model, creating instead a site specific installation that cunningly celebrates its rebelliousness. “

The view from above

The exhibition is alluring, yet quizzical and erratic in its presentation – there’s disorder, lack of context, and disarray. The works raise questions as to their intent, then… and now. Is this installation Cattelan’s final artwork? Is it in part a subtle social experiment, where museum goers are now on the outside, looking in – life observing death?

“Perversely encapsulating Cattelan’s career to date in an overly literal, three dimensional catalogue raisonné, the installation lampoons the idea of comprehensiveness.” Nancy Spector

Social experiment? Life looking at death?

I am not surprised that the exhibit has generated mixed reviews. You want to understand this giant body of work, but you can’t help but wonder whether the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

Cattelan: a self-depiction

I came away from The Guggenheim with an appreciation of Cattelan’s perspective and was inspired to learn more about his individual works. Perhaps this was attributed in (large) part to the gallery space being utilized in a completely different way. It was a stroke of genius to use the core of the rotunda to feature All; a new perspective allowed for new eyes. There’s gotta be something said for that.

Inspired at the Guggenheim: silhouetted self-portrait

Overlooking Central Park

The Guggenheim provides further details on the exhibition here:

Maurizio Cattelan: All.

To learn more about Cattelan’s individual works, The New Yorker’s, Peter Schjeldahl talks through them in an audio slide show tour:

Slide Show