Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

the real l.a. noire

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

In making stuff, we seem to increasingly be looking backwards as we move forward. Culture is less about making new things than how exactly to bring old things back in just the right balance. Stealing from the past can be dismissed as lazy, but it’s an extremely nuanced process with infinite variations – figuring out the compelling essence and which parts are just obsolete or incidental. The real work of the future may well be that of curator/creators sifting through all the junk (both material and conceptual) to retain and combine things of value that resonate with the present.

I’ve always been obsessed with new-old things. Add other obsessions like LA and spending too much time on a video game and you got LA Noire, the new release by Rockstar Games. It blends storytelling, new acting technology, painstaking production, geographic history, new music, old music, and political commentary to create a pop multi-media extravaganza that reconnects us to a time and place sorta similar and sorta different from the now.

You’ll have to play the game to experience a reality in which LA had light rail, local stores, no freeways, vacant land, Victorian suburbs, people wearing hats unironically and no mini-malls. But if you want to really be inside architecture showcasing craft and symbolism, see Spanish history, watch old movies and vaudeville, lament developer/transportation corruption, and hang out with junkie musicians, you can still find it in this handy chart of real sites seen in the game…

70s children’s psychedelia

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Here’s a clip of Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure which is the kind of thing kids in the 70s were raised on. It gets practically David Lynch at 1:20 – a nice example of the decade’s affinity for the turn of the century (Farrell’s anyone?).

the solar system

Friday, June 11th, 2010

From 1977 and The Academic Film Archive of North America – the quintessential science class filmstrip with abstract score and distinguished narration.


Monday, January 25th, 2010

Though it has been over 10 years since its opening, Encounter restaurant at the LAX theme building remains a fascinating example of total experience design. It’s nice when an architectural landmark can be re-contextualized to fit it’s own crazy space age reality thanks to interior design, sound design (is that Lalo Schifrin in the elevator?), and sophisticated-ly kitsch identity design (by Adams-Morioka). Eddie Sotto talks about the project here as head of Walt Disney Imagineering team that worked on it.

Though the building is enduring some exterior work, the food is less inspiring and upkeep is not always keeping up, it is still an inspiring piece of LA. These kind of multi-sensory projects with such a strong look and feel are rare outside of family entertainment and make art of everyday life.




norman rockwell reconsidered

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Triple Self-Portrait (1959)

Triple Self-Portrait by Norman Rockwell, 1959

A recent Vanity fair article on Norman Rockwell suggests he might come to new relevance given our current economic and cultural hangover. Like many artists, he sought to materialize an idealized vision that didn’t quite exist. A recent book (Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, by Ron Schick) shows his photographic studies compared to his finished works to shed some light on what exactly he was adding. The fact that it’s optimistic and mundane seems to have put it at odds with our ‘traditional’ understanding of art and artists for the past 150 years, usually more driven towards the extreme, difficult, painful, stylized, elite, dramatic, and fantastical (or preferably all of the above).

However it’s hard to find what is so bad about a kid from NYC with an average-to-shitty upbringing longing for an ideal America. It is likely similar to what inspired many of us (and some of the most patriotic art in a long time) in the last presidential election. The ideals Rockwell depicted weren’t in a physical, materialist or even intellectual or creative sense – the usual realms worthy of celebration. His subjects were not so slick or conventionally beautiful and were often of average or modest means. He created scenes with ordinary and flawed humans longing to connect, stand up for what’s right, or simply get along. They do not appear particularly moralist, reactionary, or sanitized. There’s always the grit lurking in the background – not condemned or celebrated – simply existing, and perhaps also inspired by what’s in focus. Any moral or political content tended towards the liberal-universal side. Sure it was all tinged with fantasy and idealism, freely admitted by the artist himself. But it seems more plausible and more inspiring than, say, the equally fictional artworld-friendly concoction of J.T. Leroy.

It seems his past unacceptability in art culture is more about the preference for romanticizing neurosis than any inherent qualities of his work. For a culture long obsessed with the idea of authenticity, perhaps Norman can help turn creative discussion and responsibility back onto what an artist chooses to depict rather than their autobiography/persona. Maybe this will keep the latter from getting cannibalized by the former and require work to stand on it’s own.

Art can convey a range of emotions and visions. I recall being moved by his illustrations. This was before art school, when I was too young to know better. It’s strange if works have to be sufficiently obscured, complicated, intellectualized, and uncomfortable to be taken seriously. The aspects of society that have long been seen as subversive, hidden, and somehow more ‘real’ (sex, drugs, violence, drama, political dissent…) are actually quite ubiquitous in media and culture today and now seem more like escape than reality. In post-subculture America, it is unlikely that constant depictions of our vices, failings, and unsavory aspects will get us anywhere. Either we can feel superior to our flawed compatriots or we get even more comfortable with our already powerful addictions. In such a climate, optimistic moral idealism seems positively avant-garde!

we are the village green preservation society

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

A recent LA Times article featured Village Green, a hidden gem of local architecture and urban planning south of the 10 between Culver City, La Brea, and the Baldwin Hills oil fields. Having lived here over a year myself I can attest to the quality of life. There’s so much nature that we even get seasons. I like good design for the people.

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Village Green in the '50s, photo by Julius Shulman

Village Green in the ’50s, photo by Julius Shulman.

For a complete pictorial history, see our ambassador Steven Keylon’s flickr sets. There’s also video of the construction and early years of the complex…