Tag Archives: california

ARCHITORTURE: WHEN DESIGN WENT GOOGIE-EYED

Architectural styles are subject to the tastes, fashion and trends of a given era. Some architecture stands the test of time. Some age less gracefully and can quickly, embarassingly look dated. Sometimes these become the targets of aesthetic derision, only to become “re-discovered” and re-appreciated decades later and once again deemed “cool.”

The futuristic “Googie” architecture of the 1960s is one example. It is both loved and loathed, but its historical significance cannot be overlooked, especially as time passes and surviving examples of it become scarcer and more fondly familiar landmarks. 

Many examples of Googie can be found throughout Los Angeles and Southern California in the form of homes, diners, motels, gas stations, and car washes, like the one pictured here in Santa Monica. The car wash, that essential feature of L.A. car culture, was especially prone to expressions of Googie style.

Googie originated in Southern California, where it was influenced by the emerging space age, jet travel and ever more reliance on the car in the American post-War era. The style is a modern architectural offshoot of Futurism and part of the American Mid-Century Modern style.

 

PERPLEXED: COLUMBUS DAY, STATUES AND MORE

We’re back after a “few days” hiatus. The break was in part due to Columbus Day, a U.S. national holiday, that for many people, including us, is not a holiday at all. More on that later.

But first … Did you miss us? NO? Well, we missed YOU, savvy reader!

What with the Columbus Day non-holiday stuff and — more to the point — really good surf arriving these past couple of weeks in California after a month of no good surf, we took a few days off from posting.  

And then those few days became a week. A week became weekS!

All that time, roaming up and down the SoCal coastline hunting waves AND trying to get work done. Emphasis on “trying.” We didn’t get a lot of work done, at least in terms of posting to this site.

But we did take lots and lots of pix for this site and saw a lot of art in the service of reporting it on this site.

So, Columbus Day non-holiday holiday.

The U.S. government and its related entities, as well as all banks, take this day off. They shut their doors, let their calls go to voicemail, and fuck-off for a Monday.

In the process, they extend their weekend for additional and various weekendy non-work activities like …

  • Day drinking
  • Home improvement/DIY stuff
  • Catching up on and binge-watching their favorite TV shows
  • Epic shopping excursions to big-box retailers like Costco and WalMart.
  • Road trips up the coast
  • Road trips down the coast
  • Road trips to the coast …
  • Road trips away from the coast
  • Supplemental day drinking

That kind of stuff.

Some public and private companies observe the holiday and give their employees the day off, too. But it’s kind of scattershot.

When we were working in the advertising and branding agency world in New York City, most of the companies gave us Columbus Day off.

Not so at our current company or most of the same kind of advertising and branding agencies here on the West Coast.

Columbus Day is kind of a bigger deal in NYC. There’s an annual Columbus Day parade there that celebrates the legacy of Italian Americans.

There are statues of Columbus, and in Midtown Manhattan especially, steps away from Central Park and the Trump International Tower and a Whole Foods, is a traffic circle (what Brits call a “roundabout”) named Columbus Circle. In middle of it is a tall column topped by a statue of Columbus. See photo above.

Columbus is a controversial figure as a symbol of historical celebration, which is understandable. The Italian navigator who sailed for Spain and discovered the “New World” is a symbol of imperialism, colonialism, and genocide for some. Increasingly, It seems the statue’s days may be numbered.

His legacy, however, can’t be denied, for good or ill. And one byproduct of his legacy, in the U.S., at least, is an annual national holiday that befuddles a nation of gainfully employed populaces who just want some clarity on whether they get the day off from work and can spend that day off to go day drinking, etc. (see bullet list above).

Another byproduct is the amazing on-site art installation by artist Tatsu Nishi in 2012 titled “Living Room,” wherein the Japanese artist constructed a temporary apartment living room around the that statue of Columbus atop the column in NYC’s Columbus Circle, making it the centerpiece of a living room.

Let’s be clear, we want the day off. So how about calling it “Controversial Historic Legacies Rememberances Day” or something like that? And then go day drinking? Or to WalMart.

Whatever it’s called, either everybody should get the day off or nobody should. Consistency, folks. Consistency! (Granted, unlike our posts … but we’re working on that.)

 

Dumpster Cactus

Cacti, like the illustrated tri-color cactus pasted onto this dumpster, dot Southern California’s natural desert landscape from Coachella to Mexico to the coastline of Santa Barbara and e eruwhete in between. So it’s fitting that street art depicting this resilient desert plant would dot the urban landscape of Los Angeles. The one on the dumpster in the pic above is in LA’s Arts District, an area that until recent gentrification was a kind of urban desert.

Vintage Surfboards

The artwork on these beautiful vintage 1970s-era surfboards is surprisingly well-preserved even though the boards themselves show some of the wear and tear that comes with use and age, bearing scars of repaired dings and discoloration. The boards evoke a time when surf culture was evolving and surfing was largely seen in the U.S. as a past time for rebels, outsiders and underground creative types. These are among hundreds of boards on view at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, California, which is worth a visit if you’re ever passing through the area.

Locals Only

    Last weekend, we stumbled upon this throw pillow with the words “Locals Only” embroidered on it at the Mollusk Surf Shop in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. The pillow is a funny, cute mash-up of old-school, cliched surf-culture sentiment and a folksy, homespun style more fitting in grandma’s living room than a surfer fort at Lunada Bay. It’s not the kind of item that the average surf shop would stock, but then Mollusk is not an average surf shop and Silver Lake is not your average surf shop locale. It’s not a laidback seaside surf haven. That there’s even a surf shop in Silver Lake at all is an anomaly.

    Mollusk originated in San Francisco where it made a name for itself that traveled far beyond the Bay Area. It established a style and a reputation for great taste. And for selling interesting, quality surfboards from shapers who made their boards by hand and were influenced by retro designs. Whether it was a shortboard, longboard for a 1970s-inspired “mid-length” board with a single fin, by and large many of these surfboard makers themselves appreciated design and style and their aesthetic tastes were reflected in their boards. (And, by the way, yes, we surf and we enjoy nerding out on this stuff.)

    Then Mollusk opened up branches in LA. One is in Venice, LA’s infamous and gritty (if now largely gentrified) beach town. It’s not a mecca of great surfing nor great waves. In fact, the surf at Venice Beach sucks most of the time. But it is a block from the beach and central for the greater LA metro area, and it’s a hub for a creative surfer community. Surfers still paddle out into the waves at the Venice breakwater most days in spite of the poor surf conditions.

    Then there’s Silver Lake. It doesn’t have Venice’s location or vibe, but there’s a niche demographic overlap. SLake is home to a class of fashionable creative types (music, film, art, advertising, design), both the moneyed kind and the less-moneyed aspiring kind, and it’s a magnet for a generation of hipsters, some of whom surf or pretend to. Mollusk is right at home here and yet it’s also totally legit, albeit with those ironic, stylish “Locals Only” throw pillows strategically placed in the store.

    “Locals Only” has come a long way.  It was the kind of thing that one often encountered back in the ’70s and ’80s in the form of crudley spray-painted graffiti near remote or hardcore surf spots along Pacific Coast Highway or at a handlulf of certain “localised” beaches in the string of seaside communities up and down the California coast or in Hawaii. It was a warning to outsiders, one tinged with menace, not to surf that beach … or else. This localism was the harder-edged face of surf culture. So to see those words rendered on the kind of soft, cuddly pillow you might cozy up to on a sofa while sipping a cup of tea and savoring the prose of a Maya Angelou novel, well, it’s funny and brilliant.  Its trick is how it both deflates the inherent threat and danger associated with those words while in another way making those words even scarier.

     

    “Cold Open”

    This beautiful old-school graffiti art is on a corrugated metal fence next to the Venice Beach offices of an advertising agency called Cold Open. Check out this short time-lapse video documenting the painting of this graffiti artwork.

    Freight Train Graffiti Art

    We were driving through Leucadia, California recently on a weekend surf trip when this freight train decorated with lots of graffiti rolled by. Nearly every car in this train had either massive artwork like in the above photo or colorful graffiti tags painted on it. Where and when this graffiti was painted is anybody’s guess, but it wasn’t in Encinitas. The train brings the artwork to audiences far away from where it was painted. It’s an example of what outer-borough subway graffiti writers back in 1970s New York City used to refer to as “getting up and getting out.”

    “Locals Mostly” Truck Mural by Luke Pelletier … Santa Monica, Los Angeles

    We came across this awesome movers truck decorated with the artwork of artist and musician Luke Pelletier. The truck was parked on 3rd Street in Santa Monica near our Los Angeles HQ. Pelletier’s artwork draws on a colorful illustrative style and array of images reflecting Southern California and its beach culture. The “locals mostly” text painted on one side of the truck is reference to surf culture’s “locals only” cliche and a lettering style that emanated from the SoCal surf and skate scene.

    “Surf 80s Divine” 

    We stumbled upon this this first-edition copy of the long and precisely titled “Surf Photographs from the Eighties Taken by Jeff Divine.” Published in 2011, this art-coffee-table book presents hundreds of images by prolific and influential surf photographer Jeff Divine that document surfing in the 1980s, a more visually vibrant and colorful decade in surfing history in terms of style, design, fashion and surf culture. The edition pictured here is the house copy at Sandbox Coffee, a cafe popular with surfers in Ventura, California. The book is so well worn that its binding is held together by duct tape.

    Cat Stencil Street Art … Malibu, Los Angeles

    Along Pacific Coast Highway, across from famed Malibu Beach and its iconic pier, is this amusing life-size stencil street art of a cat’s silhouette on a brick wall. The feline is depicted in mid-stride at sidewalk level as if casually padding down the pavement in search of the next meal. Next to the cat is the stenciled message “only fools litter.”

    “I Take Care of My Beaches” Sticker … Rincon, California

    We stumbled upon this “I Take Care of My Beaches” message on a sticker-bombed pole at the Rincon Beach parking lot near Santa Barbara, California. The sticker’s message is positive and encourage visitors to keep the the coast clean. The message itself can be read as a bit of a cheeky pun, playing off hip-hop culture’s lyrical tropes where usually the word “beaches” would be “bitches.”

    Halloween Expression on a Campground RV

    Some campers at the Carpinteria Beach campground near Santa Barbara, California decked out their camper with some funny, inventive Halloween decorations, including some fake human limbs sticking out from under the hood of the RV, suggesting a dead body poorly hidden inside.

    Cool Spaces – Enclosed Work Park at TBWA Offices … Los Angeles

    The work space at the Los Angeles offices of mega-global advertising agency TBWA (a.k.a, TBWA Chiat Day) is epic and includes an indoor, park-like plaza where people can meet, hang out, collaborate, or dine. (Full disclosure, we do work for another, separate ad agency that is related to TBWA.) The space is bathed in natural light from large skylights and is part of a massive warehouse-like former industrial building that was converted into a warren of multi-level interior office structures, bridges and open spaces reconcieved for the agency culture and work style.

    Wild Style Graffiti Truck … Venice, Los Angeles

    When we saw this graffiti truck in Los Angeles a couple of days ago, we were for a hot sec transported back to downtown New York City, where such trucks are everywhere. The elaborate artwork on this truck reminds us of the classic “wild style” graffiti art that emerged alongside early hip-hop culture in NYC. While seeing graffiti art like this in LA is not unusual at all, it’s not as common as it is New York, where this blog was founded and where we lived for 15 years. The sight of this truck parked off fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice gave us a moment of cognitive dissonance.

    The Awesome Design of a Vintage Porsche 912 … Los Angeles

    We’re not “into cars” nor have we aspired to possess a stylish sports car. That said, we love great design and if somebody wanted to give us a Porsche 912 like the one pictured here, we wouldn’t say “No.” In fact, we would lovingly care for it and fully appreciate its beautiful form. A variant of the iconic 911 — a vehicle dubbed the “car of the century” back in the ’90s — the 912 was manufactured from 1965 to 1969 and originally outsold the 911. From appearances and body, the 912 and 911 would appear to be the same vehicle. But subtle differences exist under the hood that translate into the car performing differently and selling at different basic prices. We don’t know much about cars, but from what we’ve been told by our friends who do is that one fundamental difference between the two models was that the 912 had a 4-cyclinder engine compared to the 6-cyclinder of the 911. What strikes us most though are the aesthetics of the car’s design, a compact, elegant and curvy, if mildly sexy shape that seems to be unburdened by any superfluous volume or form. The one pictured here is in mint condition. We spied it parked overnight in a lot adjacent to some light-industry warehouses in Los Angeles. The next day it was at the same spot and we took a moment to photograph it in the afternoon light.

    Monochromatic Graffiti Art … Venice, Los Angeles

    While we’ve always had a strong distaste for the most basic, utilitarian type of territorial graffiti tag — raw vandalism without taste — there’s an element of that aesthetic employed in this graffiti-inspired street art on a pair of doors on About Kinney Boulevard in Venice, in Los Angeles. The tight spacing of the letter forms and its overlapping composition are rendered in plain white on black.  The paint drips to form root-like tendrils below the rectangular block of indecipherable text.  The door forms a canvas, and the doorway with its white-painted brick forms a kind of frame. The over all composition is one of cohesion, boldness and abstraction made more mysterious and evocative by the otherwise restrained plainness of the color white. Love this.

    Plain Minimalist All-White Leather Sneakers … Venice, Los Angeles

    We recently popped into the Rag & Bone store on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, in Los Angeles, to try on this paired of white leather sneakers. These shoes are as plain and minimalist as can be. We love ’em.