Sunday, June 26, 2011

Play Room

Play time is not over.

This is Oskar Schlemmer in a costume of his own design. 

No one ever says that do they? Oh, but I'm saying it in my tribute to Oskar Schlemmer, one of my favorites from the Bauhaus. Play time goes on and on.

Costume designs by Schlemmer.
Drawing for the playroom mural.
Drawing for the playroom mural.
Drawing for the playroom mural.
Drawing for the playroom mural.

I did a very small painting project for a couple in Hancock Park, something rather simple really but they were quite happy with it. When I finished one of them asked, "Do you do anything else?" When he found out I painted murals I was shown the children's play room and asked to consider it. Fun! I'd never done such a thing so this was a chance to do something really different from my typical work. I don't know that I have a typical. Still, what I did is quite distinctive from my other projects.

The canvas are up and gessoed in the studio.
The beginning of painted form.
The slate gray is applied and more shapes appear.
More color.
Finished in the studio.
The long view.
Wide view in the opposite direction.
These parts are destined for the north wall of the playroom.
More of the finished work in the studio.
Costume designs for the Triadic Ballet.
Man Machine.
Actually I came up with three different ideas for the playroom and presented them in the form of photo-collages. The Oskar Schlemmer idea was the choice and truth be told it's just what I wanted. Schlemmer was familiar to me not only from studying the Bauhaus in art school but I had seen a wonderful show of his work in Baltimore in 1986. So he's been tucked away in my mental clipping file for some time.

West wall installed.
Jerryl Gorman and crew, Nico and Abraham, installing the south wall.
Southwest corner of the playroom mural.
Looking at the north wall with the west on the right.
Niko working on the east wall.
Wikipedia says Schlemmer was hard at work and self supporting at age 15. I don't know if that's completely true but he was a workshop apprentice at that age and his parents both died when he was still young. This is might not be the sort of background you'd expect to lead to such a witty, playful, and inventive artist. Working young instilled a love and appreciation for craftsmanship that Schlemmer carried his whole life. He taught this at the Bauhaus but he was also in charge of the "Fun Department" -all the parties and festivals. He's perhaps most remember for his Triadic Ballet (Triadishches Ballett) and that's a sort of party as performance.

This figure became known as the TV empress because she carries the television screen.

Jerryl's iPad with my elevations helped guide the installation.
Part of what I love about Schlemmer's work are the marvelous contrasts. Simple and complex. There's bright clear color and a range of neutrals. There are hard edge flat planes of color, visible brush work, and modeled form. There are references to machines but ones that seem to produce no serious work. The human form is even combined with the machine. This relates directly to his staged pieces. Oskar was very much of his time expressing the latest ideas in art and design which even today can look startling and new. The house where my Oskar Schlemmer mural lives was built about the same time Oskar was at the height of his artistic output so although it may seem in contrast with the architecture it also feels  very much at home. More importantly the kids really like it -and so do their parents!

The Woman's Building where my mural was painted.
The cartouche above the door shows the letters SOCO
(Standard Oil Company) from 1913.

About the time I was ready to start the playroom mural my friend David Chun asked if I was interested in an apprentice. I would need help for the project anyway and I think this project particularly suited David's skill set as a furniture designer. He makes beautiful drawings so he did the first round of sketches to which I made only minor changes. He also helped me with all other aspects of creating the  mural.

My neighbor and fellow artist Marina Moevs rescued me at the last minute with a studio space. Actually what she did was check with her landlord and discovered there was one space available immediately which was exactly when I needed it. The building is of note so I'm including a picture of the exterior. The structure was completed in 1913 for the Standard Oil Company but it was made famous in the 1970s as a hotbed of feminist and artistic expression known as The Woman's Building.

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