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Baldessari Puts Dots on James Franco’s, Miley Cyrus’ Face

[via Visionaire's facebook page]

[via Visionaire’s facebook page]

Baldessari collectors on a budget, rejoice! The latest Baldessari-themed issue of upscale art magazine / downscale art object Visionaire has just hit the stands. Visionaire 64 is divided into three color-coded limited editions – Red, Green, and Blue – each featuring a different set of ten loose 12 x 18 B&W celebrity portraits, overlaid with the conceptual artist’s signature colorful forms. Fans of the overhyped will want to pick up the red edition which includes James Franco, Miley Cyrus, and Marina Abramovic, along with Ed Ruscha and Pedro Almodovar. The green issue features actors Julianne Moore, Scar Jo, and Neil Patrick Harris, as well as Yoko Ono, Drake, and John Waters, while the blue has Lupita Nyong’O, Ai Weiwei, Catherine Opie, Michael Stipe, and Psy (we assume this was conceived of during the height of “Gangnam Style”).

It's Miley! [via Visionaireworld.com]
It’s Miley! [via Visionaireworld.com]

For those unfamiliar with Visionaire, it was founded in 1991 as a platform for artists, fashion designers and other culture makers to push the boundaries of what a magazine could be. Previous offerings include a set of pop-up artist books, vinyl LP’sscent vials and flavor strips, as well as the world’s largest magazine, weighing 18 lbs. and measuring 4 ¾ x 6 ½ feet. Although each issues carries a heavy price tag (most are a few hundred dollars, although a Hermes-themed issue in a leather case retails for $3000), they often rely on corporate sponsorship to cover production costs.

Dustin Hoffman a la Baldesssari [via Visionaireworld.com]
Dustin Hoffman a la Baldessari [via Visionaireworld.com]

This latest issue is no different, having been created in partnership with Samsung, who presumably see this as an opportunity to convince people to take more selfies with their products (if that is even possible). Although Visionaire didn’t return emails or calls regarding the project, their website states that they view this collaboration as combining the “current ease of digital and emailable self-portraits with the time-honored craftsmanship of printmaking.” Although he erroneously conflates selfies with self-portraits (or just pictures of people, really), Baldessari notes, “I’ll probably be most remembered for putting dots over people’s faces, so it’s funny to do an issue devoted to selfies of famous people.” It’s worth mentioning that in almost all of the images we’ve seen, the celebrities are clearly recognizable, saving you the trouble of explaining to dinner guests that there really is a picture of Cameron Diaz under that squiggle, honest!

[via Thethingquarterly.com]
[via Thethingquarterly.com]

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because collectible art object publisher The Thing Quaterly recently released their Baldessari edition. Issue 22 consists of two pillowcases with a silkscreened meta-image of a woman clutching a pillow. Although these meant-to-be-used objects lack the celebrity caché of the Visionaire issue, we can’t think of a better way to wake up than with your head on a Baldessari.

 

356 Mission Needs Help with 590 Dots

Little DotLarge-scale works, such as those of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (R.I.P.), often require hundreds of helpers, laboring away for love and minimum wage. Such is the price of collaborative art.

Kudos to 356 Mission for increasing the pay scale this month for anyone who wants to participate in Jonathan Horowitz’s 590 Dots, a monumental painting project that needs 590 helpers. Stop by the space during regular hours and you can make $20 for 30 to 60 minutes of collaboration. Factor that out over 40 hours a week, and you’d be making $80K a year, player.

We reached out to 356 Mission for more information.

“Once participants arrive, they are given a specific set of parameters,” says gallery director Ethan Swan. “We really stress that everyone has to do their best job, but that we also understand it as an impossible task. Ultimately, participation should be a relaxing, almost zen-like experience. For some people it produces a lot of anxiety but that’s interesting too, I think.”

Zen or anxiety? Which will it be for you? Regardless, be sure to wear clothes for painting.

The call for participation is open until October 25, but you might want to head there sooner than later, lest you become that 591st dot.

356 Mission is located at 356 South Mission Road, just across the L.A. River from downtown. The space is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

 

 

Machine Project Re-Animates Historic Gamble House

Gamble House with work by Jessica Cowley (l) and Patrick Ballard (r) (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

Gamble House with work by Jessica Cowley (l) and Patrick Ballard (r) (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

 

For a city that is often characterized as lacking a historical memory, Los Angeles has a lot of love for its iconic architecture. Whether it’s modernist residences by Schindler, Neutra, or Lautner, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock and Ennis Houses, or scandal-tinged Greystone Mansion, Angelenos have a strong appreciation for these landmarks nestled among our strip malls and freeways. Pasadena’s Gamble House, an Arts and Crafts masterpiece designed by Greene & Greene, is one of the most beloved, and for two weeks non-profit arts space Machine Project is offering new ways to experience this century-old gem.

Completed in 1909, the house was built for the Gamble family (of pharmaceutical giant Proctor & Gamble). The Greenes meticulously oversaw every aspect of construction, from the sourcing of multiple kinds of wood, to the hand-rounded edges on every beam, to the use of the family’s crest, a rose and crane, in detailing throughout the three-storey home. These labor-intensive, old world methods were paired with then-modern technologies, including electricity, central heating, and hygienic, tile-lined bathrooms and kitchen.

Work by Emily Joyce in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Emily Joyce in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

Anyone who has been on a tour of the building knows that it is an impeccably preserved period museum, which makes Machine Project’s house-wide contemporary intervention all the more striking. As part of the Pasadena Arts Council’s AxS Festival, Machine Project’s Field Guide to the Gamble House aims to “reveal the history and visual ideas behind the Gamble House in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.” In addition to visual art, there will be performances, workshops and even a secret restaurant. We spoke with Machine Project’s Mark Allen to get the low-down on the project.

Work by Anna Sew Hoy in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Anna Sew Hoy in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

“I really think we do our best shows when we have the most context, that’s what I really liked about the Gamble House.” Allen says. “You’ve got all this history, it’s a weird space, it’s like this futuristic house of 1909. I’m always interested in technology that’s like old tech or weird tech or things like that. It’s also something you couldn’t make now so it’s almost like a time machine in terms of what kind of wood is available and the economy of it and the craftsmanship. All that stuff becomes really rich to kind of dig into and make the show about.”

Work by Laura Owens at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Laura Owens at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

What started as an idea to commission ten artists to create work quickly expanded to include 57 artists. “My process was to go over there for tours. I went on 14 tours, and every time I would go I would think of another artist I wanted to invite and to be honest I’m still thinking of people I wish I had put in the show. With more time it would have been 70 artists instead of 57.” Some of those visual artists whose work will be on display in and around the house include Cayetano Ferrer, Katie Herzog, Emily Joyce, Laura Owens, Jessica Cowley (full disclosure, she’s my girlfriend), Anna Sew Hoy, and Ricky Swallow.

Work by Patrick Ballard at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Patrick Ballard at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

As an historic landmark, the Gamble House presented challenges for how to install work. The most challenging was Patrick Ballard’s The Swirling Mess Below the Sleeping Porch Soon Solidified into A Crest of Phantasmagoric Weight that Creaks Between the Doors, the Floors, and a Form that Could Never Be a House Again, a 300lb, 2-storey rose cone from which a crane emerges. “How do you hang a 300lb sculpture on a house where you can’t touch anything?” Allen asks. “We built an entire platform that covers the whole surface of the front porch to keep it safe, and then attached to that are these aluminum trusses, and it’s basically a deck, and the weight of the deck provides a counterweight to cantilever these aluminum trusses with the cone attached to it. So we did have to come up with some creative solutions to a lot of these issues.”

Matthew Au's Gamble House roof sculptures double as lawn furniture (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Matthew Au’s Gamble House roof sculptures double as lawn furniture (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

The Field Guide runs through October 5, but this Saturday from 12pm-10pm is the first of two days when the house will be free and open to the public, with performances and activities throughout the day. Some of these include a puppet show in Ballard’s piece, Annie Danis’ archaeological dig, Bob Dornberger’s secret restaurant, a lightshow by Animal Charm, dance performances by Nick Duran and Milka Djordjevich, closet poem readings, bed conversations and more. For a complete list of activities, click here.

What about the projects that didn’t make it? “Ballard’s original ideas was a 2 story blond puppet head that we were gonna order 400 wigs from china for and weave them together,” says Allen. “His idea was ‘oh this house is such a brunette it should have a blonde on it,’ but when we really got down to getting 400 wigs from China, it was prohibitively expensive. A lot of the projects evolve, that’s kind of a normal process for us.”

 

 

Can the LA River Be Something More Than a Concrete Trough?

[via playthelariver.com]

[via playthelariver.com]

The L.A. River has long been the butt of jokes, with many viewing it as little more than a dry, concrete-lined trough, but with renewed interest in the river as a natural site for recreation, and a $1 billion revitalization plan in the works, that is poised to change. Embodying this attitude is Play the LA River, a 51-week project organized by arts collective Project 51 that “invites Angelenos to enjoy, explore, reclaim & reimagine the mighty LA River as a grand civic space that can green & connect our communities.” It all kicked off on September 13 at the newly expanded Marsh Park, and continues until next September with almost a year’s worth of events, performances and activities located along the river’s 51-mile stretch. The calendar seems pretty thin now, but perhaps it will get filled in as the program gets rolling.

Play the LA River card [via playthelariver.com]
Play the LA River card [via playthelariver.com]

A central part of the project is a card deck featuring 56 sites along the river with suggested activities to do there. They come as a physical deck or can be viewed on a computer or smart phone on their mobile-friendly site, though when we tried it on an iPhone 5, navigating was a bit clunky. Some of the activities could be more well thought-out (a “rain dance” at Water Reclamation Park, really?), but the cards do a good job of identifying the many different kinds of sites and the types of adjacent paths (pedestrian, bike, and horse), as well as providing a bit of history.

Play the LA River sites [via playthelariver.com]
Play the LA River sites [via playthelariver.com]

As for how the arts relate to river revitalization, Cathy Gudis, one of the project organizers, recently told KPCC: “”The arts have had a longstanding role in drawing public attention to the fact that, one, we have a river and, two, that it is a river.” She sites Frank Romero’s Anza Mural, which is just one of a number of artistic interventions that have helped to define the river as vibrant, communal space, open to all and full of possibility. Whether or not you’re a fan of the card deck’s gamification of river exploration, it’s hard to argue that a year-long program drawing attention to one of L.A.’s greatest natural resources is not worthwhile and long overdue.

 

 

Sexy Beast Gala Enlists Art to Benefit Planned Parenthood

SexyBeast_napkin

The art world is often portrayed, rightly or wrongly, as being insular and self-absorbed, cut-off from the everyday concerns of real people in the real world. In contrast to this detached stereotype is Sexy Beast, an upcoming benefit and auction that aims to harness the power of the artistic community for a specific cause. All proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, which is especially timely given the multiple upcoming threats to reproductive choice across the country.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Stay/Go), 2007, pigment prints, 74 x 100 inches, ed. of 10 [via paddle8.com/auctions/plannedparenthood]
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Stay/Go), 2007, pigment prints, 74 x 100 in, ed. of 10 [via paddle8.com/auctions/plannedparenthood]
Alex Olson, Untitled, 2014, Oil and modeling paste on linen, 24 x 18 in [via paddle8.com/auctions/plannedparenthood]
Alex Olson, Untitled, 2014, Oil and modeling paste on linen, 24 x 18 in [via paddle8.com/auctions/plannedparenthood]

 

“It feels really good to use our commercial chops for another means, and for something that is outside of the art world and effects change in a daily and quantifiable way,” said Mieke Marple via email, who, along with her Night Gallery co-partner Davida Nemeroff, are Sexy Beast event chairs. “Davida and I actually approached Planned Parenthood Los Angeles about doing an art auction fundraiser,” she explained. “Without knowing us or knowing anything about the gallery, PPLA was very receptive to our idea.  After that, we assembled a great planning committee, since we didn’t really know what we were doing, and then a great production team, who is making this ambitious event possible.  Lastly, we got an amazing group of emerging and established artists to donate significant pieces that don’t feel like ‘charity art.’”

Sexy Beast Auction Paddles designed by Alex Israel [via Night Gallery's Instagram]
Sexy Beast Auction Paddles designed by Alex Israel [via Night Gallery’s Instagram]

Some of those artists include Sam Falls, Barbara Kruger, Christopher Williams, Joe Reihsen, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Alex Olson and Andrea Bowers, among others. In addition to the auction, there will be a performance by indefatigable choreographer / dancer Ryan Heffington, and an award presented to actress / comedian Jenny Slate. If that’s not enough, the auction paddles are designed by Alex Israel, and the whole event will be hosted by funnyman Jack Black. Single tickets cost $550, but if you can get a group of 6 or more friends together, the price drops to $467 each. This may be steep for some, but if there’s going to be a gala art event you can’t afford to go to, shouldn’t it benefit a good cause?

Sexy Beast will be held from 7-10pm, on Saturday September 20 at the Ace Hotel Theatre, 929 S. Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles.

 

 

Daniel Rolnik Gallery brings Positive Vibes, Wizards to Santa Monica

Daniel Rolnik  - can he become the World's Most Adorable Dealer? [via danielrolnik.com]

Daniel Rolnik – can he become the World’s Most Adorable Dealer? [via danielrolnik.com]

Daniel Rolnik, who calls himself “The World’s Most Adorable Art Critic,” will open his eponymous gallery in Santa Monica on Sept. 18 with its inaugural exhibition, Smile Isle. In addition to contributing to dozens of publications, the 25-year old impresario co-owns Intellectual Property Prints, runs Youtube channel For the Funk of It, and writes for artist interview series Underpainting. We reached him by phone and asked him about his motivations for starting a gallery, what his program will look like, and what visitors can expect.

“I wanted to create a space where the quality isn’t sacrificed by having a lower price point,” Rolnik explained. “So to do that, any piece in the show that is like a very expensive painting, is paired with a print of the same piece or something similar, so that there is an access point for everybody.”

“I feel like Napster in a weird way,” he went on, referencing the early-aughts file-sharing service, hailed by many (especially Metallica) as the beginning of the end of the music industry as we knew it, “cause they unveiled that music can be free. I’m unveiling fine art that can be accessible.” Unlike Napster’s Sean Fanning, however, Rolnik assured us that all his artists will be paid.

As for his program, “it’s gonna be really, really, really fun and about positive vibes and having fun and making people smile,” Rolnik gleefully announced, echoing no art dealer ever. It will focus on art from “the Americas. North and South, I have this love for America, I don’t know why, I think it’s cause I’m half first generation…it’s still the Wild West out here which I love, I’m gonna have a lot of Wild West-themed things.”

Graham Curran, Cargo, 36 x 24 inches, acrylic on wood, 2013 [via danielrolnikgallery.com]
Graham Curran, Cargo, 36 x 24 inches, acrylic on wood, 2013, on view in Smile Isle [via danielrolnikgallery.com]

Rolnik’s gallery follows in the footsteps of other critic-run spaces like Matt Gleason’s Coagula Curatorial, located across town in L.A.’s Chinatown. As with dealers who moonlight as museum directors, there is the potential here for a conflict of interest when the line is blurred between arbiters of taste, and those who benefit financially from their pronouncements. Rolnik dismisses these concerns, saying “that’s only with shady people, I’ve surrounded myself with good people.”

He’ll begin the space with a three-month stint, noting “if it’s going grand and smooth we’re gonna keep the train rollin’, even taking it on the road.” In a couple of weeks, he plans a visit from artist and “magician/warlock” Gabriel Shaffer, who will perform a drought-ending ceremony in the space. “It’s always cool to have wizards on your side,” Rolnik exclaims, with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of an 8-year old.

The Daniel Rolnik Gallery will open with Smile Isle on Thursday, September 18th from 6-10pm. It is located at 1431 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

 

 

Step and Repeat brings Performance Back to MOCA

Dynasty Handbag, photo by Ian Douglas [via http://mocastepandrepeat.tumblr.com/]
Dynasty Handbag, photo by Ian Douglas [via mocastepandrepeat.tumblr.com]

This Saturday, L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art kicks off Step and Repeat, a month of Saturday evenings full of “performance art, music, comedy, and poetry that marks MOCA’s return to live arts programming,” as their Tumblr states. Performers will come from all over the country, with a special attention paid to “the burgeoning performance communities in Los Angeles.”

This first weekend has something for everyone, from poets Rae Armantrout and Vanessa Place, the first poet to perform at a Whitney Biennial in 2012, to musicians including artist/DJ Ashland Mines, R&B revivalists Rare Times, Ille, founder of magazine and record label Pop Manifesto, producer and performer P. Morris, and SFV Acid, whose sound Pitchfork described as “acid house, boogie funk, and electro” and who recently wrote and recorded an album entirely at a San Fernando Valley Starbucks. Video and performance artist Ann Hirsch will be presenting “a staged reading of her censored e-book set in a late 1990s AOL chatroom,” while Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Jacolby Satterwhite will bring his energetic and expansive performance to the stage. (You may remember him busting serious moves in Jay Z’s face while Lawrence Weiner looked on in the Picasso Baby video.) Rounding out the list is Dynasty Handbag, the stage name of musician, performance artist and hilarious crazy-face maker Jibz Cameron.

Upcoming performers include artist and film-maker Wu Tsang, comic Kate Berlant, TV Carnage creator Derrick Beckles, legendary performance artist Barbara T. Smith, and indie rock god Steven Malkmus and the Jicks.

If you’re not from L.A. (or from the Westside) you may not be familiar with what “Step and Repeat” means. We asked MOCAtv creative director Emma Reeves who co-organized the program to explain: “Step and Repeat is a play on celebrity culture, as it refers to the process of stars parading in front of a wall of logos on a red carpet, being photographed and doing interviews one after another. The title also works well in conjunction with different types of performance, such as the rhythm of language of the poets, the movement-based performance of Jacolby Satterwhite and the DJs. It can be thought of as a ‘beat’ and this series is listening and responding to the beat of vital creative performers in LA and beyond.”

Under former director Jeffrey Deitch’s tenure, MOCA had been criticized by some for prioritizing entertainment over art. However, Step and Repeat seems like it just might be able to combine the best of both worlds – highlighting the role of performance in contemporary art, while acknowledging the potential for convergence between various modes of performance.

Step and Repeat runs from 6-11pm Saturdays through October 4th. Get tickets here.

My LA2050: Crowdsourcing for the greater good (and the bottom line)

[via la2050.org/]

[via la2050.org]

It used to be that the moneyed classes would dispense their endowments with scant input from the hoi polloi. The latest trend in philanthropy, however, is asking the public to vote on who is most deserving from amongst a group of competing applicants. First there was the Hammer Museum’s $25,000 Public Recognition Award, which was donated by the Mohn Family Foundation and went to Jennifer Moon this year, and now comes the million-dollar My LA2050 grant challenge.

Created by the Goldhirsh Foundation, My LA2050 began last year as “an initiative to create a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles.” They gave out $100,000 each to ten organizations, based on their ability to contribute to the future of LA along eight metrics, from education to housing to arts & cultural vitality. They received 279 submissions and over 70,000 people voted, however the results were not purely populist. Ultimately the Foundation itself selected the winners from among the top ten vote recipients in each category. Two “Wild Card” slots were picked solely by the Foundation. The Arts award was given to the Hammer Museum, an undoubtedly worthy institution, but not exactly a struggling arts non-profit.

This year they’ve switched things up a bit, with two $100,000 awards given in each of five categories: Play, Connect, Live, Create, and Learn. One winner from each category will be selected based on public votes, while the other will be picked by a panel of judges. There are 63 projects in the Create category including a muralist apprentice program for at risk youth, a mobile opera that takes place in cars, and arts and music studio L.A. Fort, not to be confused with FORT, a community workshop that makes functional goods out of reclaimed materials. (Full disclosure: The Los Angeles Review of Books, which I am Arts Editor of, is also in the running.)

Voting began September 2nd and runs through next Tuesday, September 16th. The only catch is that you need to create a GOOD account in order to vote, GOOD being the Upworthy-esque magazine founded by Ben Goldhirsh of the Goldhirsh Foundation. GOOD’s consulting branch, GOOD/Corps, combines philanthropy with corporate branding,  working on the Pepsi Refresh Project, “an innovative attempt both to strengthen the Pepsi brand for meaning-seeking millennials and to benefit communities across America,” as well as Vote. Give. Grow, “an online platform to deepen customer loyalty by creating opportunities for My Starbucks Rewards member to help direct Starbucks Foundation grants to local nonprofits.” Donating generously to bolster arts, education and social services is never a bad thing, but it’s important to consider who’s giving the money, why they’re giving it, and what sort of corporate interests are being served.

 

 

Art Apps: LACMA’s Snapchat and Miranda July’s Somebody

via LACMA's snapchat

via LACMA’s snapchat

via LACMA's snapchat

via LACMA’s snapchat

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art made cyber-news recently when Hyperallergic announced that they were the first museum to join Snapchat. A handful of other museums chimed in that they were also using the mobile image-sharing app popular with millennials, however with 40,000 Snapchat views, LACMA is clearly “killing it,” as LAist noted.

Since images or videos sent to other users disappear immediately after viewing, Snapchat has become associated, perhaps unfairly, with content that demands discretion (dick pics in common parlance). Users can, however, post “stories” that remain viewable for 24 hours, which is how most art institutions are using the app.

“The majority of people don’t use it as a sex app,” says Maritza Yoes, LACMA’s social media manager. “They’re using it as a platform for play, from the mundane to the cool. It’s a little less narcissistic than Instagram, it’s ephemeral, it’s quick.” In addition to sharing artwork from LACMA’s collection that she pairs with captions from pop culture, Yoes uses Snapchat to share content not available on other platforms, such as images of her visits to artists’ studios. There is also a new LACMA geofilter with which users can tag their museum snaps to properly brand their experience.

via the Blanton Museum's snapchat

via the Blanton Museum’s snapchat

via the Blanton Museum's snapchat

via the Blanton Museum’s snapchat

The Blanton Museum in Austin has followed LACMA’s lead, captioning old masterworks from their collection with lyrics from pop music, including Beyonce and, unfortunately, LMFAO.

 

Miranda July's Somebody [via http://unframed.lacma.org/node/1424]
Miranda July’s Somebody [via http://unframed.lacma.org/node/1424]

If you’re looking for a more analog way to communicate via smartphone, Miranda July has just released Somebody, a messaging app she created in collaboration with fashion brand Miu Miu. The basic gist is that you send a message to a friend, which, instead of showing up on their phone, is delivered in person by another app user in their general vicinity. You can specify inflections or actions such as “longingly,” “fist bump” or “ask her what she’s worried about and reassure her that everything will be OK.” A short film (with Miu Miu wardrobe) produced in conjunction with the app is equal parts sincere and cringe-worthy, so typical July fare.

LACMA's social media manager Maritza Yoes with Somebody sandwich board

LACMA’s social media manager Maritza Yoes with Somebody sandwich board

The app works best with a critical mass of users in one place, so official hot spots have been designated, including LACMA, the New Museum and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. To promote the hot spot, Yoes recently spent a day walking around the LACMA grounds sporting seriously old-school messaging technology – a sandwich board.

It’s unclear if the hot spots will actually enhance the social aspects of museum-going, or if users will simply race past great works of art in attempts to deliver quirky messages to strangers. Concerns have also been raised regarding privacy issues, since the deliverer of the message is given GPS tracking information about the recipient to help locate them. This seems fine in a public space during the day, not so much if the message is delivered when one is home alone at night. Even less so if the message involves pooping back and forth forever.

Deborah Sussman, Iconic Designer of Supergraphics, Dies at 83

Deborah Sussman [photo: Lauren Joliet for the New York Times]

Deborah Sussman [photo: Lauren Joliet for the New York Times]

The design world lost one of its leading lights on Monday August 18th when Deborah Sussman passed away at her Los Angeles home. She was 83. The cause was breast cancer, according to her husband and partner Paul Prejza.

Sussman was a pioneer in the field of environmental graphics – often called supergraphics – that leapt off the page and onto architecture. Her brightly colored “designs could turn buildings into urban events,” noted Joseph Giovannini in the obituary he penned for the New York Times. The urban event that garnered her wide recognition was the system of graphic signage that her firm designed in collaboration with Jerde Partnership for the 1984 Olympics set in Los Angeles. “With intensely colored banners, bunting, kiosks, streamers and graphic confetti, like free-standing stars,” writes Giovannini, “the designers created an instant landscape on light poles, lawns and sidewalks that gave pockets of the city the air of a carnival.” The colors she chose reflected the panoply of cultures represented in L.A. — magenta, yellow and vermillion from Mexico, saffron from Asia, and aqua “representing the Mediterranean spiritual climate of Los Angeles,” as she said in a 1986 L.A. Times interview. Although her Olympic designs were not universally lauded at the time, Frank Gehry, who collaborated with Sussman in the 1960s, praised their impact. “That’s what the Olympics were about — to put Los Angeles at the center of attention,” he told the L.A. Times. “Deborah put that into a visual.”

Deborah Sussman's designs for the 1984 LA Olympics.
Deborah Sussman’s designs for the 1984 L.A. Olympics.

Before founding her own design practice in 1968, Sussman got her start working for Charles and Ray Eames from 1961-67. She marred Mr. Prejza, an architect in 1972, and started a firm with him, Sussman/Prejza in 1980. In addition to designing corporate identities for clients like Apple and Southern California Gas, she contributed graphics for the traffic systems at Disney World and created visual identities for the City of Santa Monica and Culver City, where she had a studio. In 2012, she designed signage for L.A.’s newly opened Grand Park featuring 16-foot tall posts that said “the park for all” in 26 languages.

Sussman’s work was recently included in California’s Designing Women at the Autry Museum and her Olympic Designs were prominently featured in Overdrive at the Getty. Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles, an exhibition focusing on her work from 1953 to 1984, was held at the Wuho Gallery at the end of last year. In his review of that show, the Los Angeles Times’ Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne pinpoints what made her such a pivotal figure in Los Angeles’ design landscape: her expansive vision of design, and the longevity of her contributions: “Sussman’s work, in that sense, provided a bridge between two definitions of graphic design — one about text and the other about the city — as well as between two eras in L.A. design history.”

For a better look at just a fraction of her work, visit Curbed L.A.