MALCOLM LELAND: Architectural Sculptor
April 14 to May 26, 2007
Opening: Saturday, April 14, 2007, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art
8568 Washington Blvd.,
Culver City CA 90232
In 1966, Robert Smithson signed on as the "artist consultant" to the firm of Tippets, Abbot, McArthy and Stratton, designers of the mega-airport that would become Dallas/Ft. Worth. In this role, Smithson famously took an "overview" approach, proposing massive earthworks legible only to passengers in airplanes flying high above. While Smithson's proposal went unrealized it nonetheless established a new artist-in-architecture paradigm--highly conceptual and largely outside the crafts tradition--that would quickly come to prevail. But, if so, then what was the prior model of the artist-consultant to architects and engineers, the one that Smithson's approach superseded? And who were these supposed dinosaurs now made suddenly extinct? The exhibition Malcolm Leland: Architectural Sculptor at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art addresses such questions while making the exemplary case for that earlier tradition of close collaboration between artist and architect, craft and technology.
In 1957, the high modernist architect Richard Neutra invited Malcolm Leland to create the louvered ceramic facade of the L.A. Hall of Records, thus setting the young sculptor on a path that would lead to a career filled with fruitful architectural projects. Look to the facade of the American Cement Company Building on Wilshire Blvd at MacArthur Park. There, in 1960, Leland took the challenge presented to Daniel, Mann, Mendenhall and Johnson: Demonstrate the infinite possibilities of pre-cast concrete; and erected a matrix of organic and structural excellence. Other grand accomplishments can be viewed at the Pomona College Clock Tower, The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, Cal Tech in Pasadena the San Diego Civic Center, UCLA, USC and Century City.
A tremendous amount of Malcolm Leland's modernist reputation rests on just 4 years of ceramic design work he did at the beginning stage of a 50 year career. The vessels, fountains, lantern modules and bird shelter (which won the 1955 MOMA Good Design Award) are immediately recognizable to students of mid-century design. These items were created in the first years of Malcolm Leland Ceramics in El Segundo. They were later licensed to Architectural Pottery and became the iconic supporting players in the Case Study photographic records of the day.
The current exhibition at Cardwell Jimmerson presents ceramic objects, sculpture, and architectural elements. There are functional fireplaces and a tall working fountain (a holy grail piece), window grilles and elegant wall reliefs from the latter decades of Leland's career. Some of the early sculptures have not been shown since they were well reviewed (alongside work by Peter Voulkos, John Mason and some of the other Otis Revolutionaries). It is one's privilege, on rare occasion, to walk in off the street and see genius. This is that occasion.