When two art forms meet, there is always a negotiation. Artist and musician Kim Gordon, best known as a founding member of the rock band Sonic Youth, wrestles with this in her latest site-specific installation, Coming Soon, on view at Rudolf Schindler’s Fitzpatrick-Leland House in Los Angeles until April 26.
“It was a constant competition between architecture and art,” says Aaron Moulton, the show’s curator and director of programming for Gagosian Los Angeles, who adds that exhibiting Gordon’s work in the 1936 spec house presented a challenge because they could not control the lighting and there was only one proper wall for displaying art. Yet, Coming Soon also echoed the real challenges of living with art.
At first, Gordon was in search of a model home, but when she found the Fitzpatrick-Leland house, she was sold. Schindler had designed it to be a demonstration house for a hilltop community, making it the perfect representation of a generic ideal. Gordon, under the byname Design Office, turned the house—now under the MAK Center’s stewardship—into an artist’s studio for two weeks. Working in the basement of the three-story terraced structure, she created 24 new wreath paintings on canvases specially sized for the building's dimensions. The paintings continue her previous series of spray can wreath paintings. “The wreath is a symbolic object, heavily connected to the home,” says Moulton.
Minimalist and severe, whorls of spray paint on canvas leave the silhouettes of heather wreaths. “The design activity was not meant to be well executed or look a certain way, have a certain look or style. If anything, it was a lo-fi aesthetic using or recycling other aesthetics,” explained the artist in a statement. (Gordon’s straightforward process seems to recall the stencil art popular during punk rock’s prime.) The resulting simplicity works to the paintings’ advantage, allowing them to blend in with the interlocking volumes of the L-shaped house perched above Laurel Canyon.
The color palette of the Fitzpatrick-Leland house and its furnishings influenced Gordon's choise of paint colors. Mulholland Series (Gold Chrome Wreath) plays off of the warm hue of the built-in wood cabinets in the kitchen. Mulholland Series (Mermaid Wreath) mimicks the color of the Eames chair in the kitchen. Mulholland Series (Neptune Wreath) hangs inside the upstairs bathroom and brings out the mint green of the tiles and bathtub.
While some works are at home on the walls, others are uncomfortably placed—by design. “Those are moments of consideration and possibility, when the owner has yet to figure out where something goes,” says Moulton. In the bedroom, the large 80-by-60-inch Mulholland Series (Dark Indigo Wreath) is placed atop the pillows, as if waiting to be hung. In the living room, two wreath paintings disturb views of Mulholland Drive from the expansive windows Schindler designed. Mulholland Series (Silver Wreath) hangs slightly askew on the door leading out to the roofdeck.
But the source of this awkwardness—the architecture—is also the exhibition’s strength. As the light changes throughout the house over the course of the day, so does the experience of Gordon’s works. “Art is never as you see it in a white cube,” says Moulton. In this case, it is art made relevant to the realities of everyday living.
Coming Soon is on view by appointment only. Call Gagosian Gallery at (310) 271-9400 to schedule.