Like a shiny extra-terrestrial bobble tucked into the foothills above Palm Springs, “Mirage” by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken is among the most striking contemporary-art experiences of 2017. It’s probably the unofficial rockstar of Desert X, an inaugural exhibition of site-specific artworks mostly in the form of installations and sculptural objects spread across the desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.
“Mirage” is a literal house of mirrors. Its loose architectural form is a single-story ranch house in a nod to the region’s traditional housing style. But it’s a ranch house with a shape augmented by contemporary touches – a skylight, a balcony, a window-less chamber.
All that architecture is just a platform for Aitken’s bold visual statement and its main feature: The mirrored surfaces of the house inside and out. The exterior walls, and interior walls and ceilings, are mirrors reflecting the desert landscape outside and multiplying the reflections inside like a silverlight echo chamber. It is not enough to look at it.
Walking through “Mirage” is to be entranced by the unceasing play of light from every angle and reflective pane and by the all the possibilities in reframing your view of the bright desert outside through the house’s many windows
The collection of buildings that make up the Pacific Design Center is a bold, massive landmark of West Hollywood, in Los Angeles. Better known to Angelenos perhaps than the outside world, the PDC has aged remarkably well since the first of its buildings was completed in 1975. The building complex is visually striking and unmissable in its unusual use of primary colors and the asymetrical shapes of the buildings and their arrangement. The architecture was conceived by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli and the PDC seems as fresh a presence as any more recent and contemporary buildings in the area.
The branding of coffee roaster and cafe Common Room in Costa Mesa, California is a simple two-dimensional, flat icon of a coffee cup and saucer. It appears repeated in a diagonal pattern across the cafe’s exterior, a gray single-story brick warehouse-type building in a light-industrial business park devoid of shops and the hustle-and-bustle street traffic that comes with it. The windows are darkly shaded. Both its location and secretive minimalist architectural design give it an air of mystique.
Maximalist German publisher Taschen, producer of epic coffee-table books devoted to all things art and design, has recently given its Los Angeles gallery a wholesale pink makeover. It’s part of the company’s promotion of its new book celebrating the work and career of L.A.-based British artist David Hockney. The gallery is playing host to Hockney’s paintings. The pink exterior is accented with a bold, all-caps, blue treatment of the books title: “A Bigger Book.” The colors reference colors often used in Hockney’s many painting of Los Angeles. Pretty awesome.
There must be a word in the English language for when a thing is designed to look like another object with which it’s associated in some practical way, but we can’t find a suitable word. Take for example, this bicycle rack in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles. The rack is shaped like a set of bicycles. It’s a nice touch that makes an otherwise mundane, utilitarian piece of street furniture into an amusing part of the urban landscape. The bicycle shape of the rack communicates its purpose, making the rack easier to visually identify at a distance and thus the search for it that much easier. As for a suitable word, we suggest creating a new, more applicable word. Our suggestion: “resembladinger.” It’s a portmanteau we mashed up from the the words “resemble” and the old Germanic word “ding,” which means thing. We added an “-er” suffix for effect and to suggest it having a practical, tool-like quality. Any other suggestions? Let us know.
A classic example of Los Angeles movie-theater architecture from the early days of cinema, the Vista on Sunset Boulevard in Los Feliz is a landmark. Built in 1923, it has been a part of the LA urban landscape for nearly a century, from the silent-film era through to the recent “La La Land,” which can be seen promotoed on the theater marquee.