In the ’30s and ’40s, Californian architects and designers like Ray Eames, Merle Armitage, Alvin Lustig, and John and Marilyn Neuhart put playful, colorful twists on cerebral modernist traditions imported from Europe. The silkscreens of artist Chris Turnham, currently on view at the Nucleus Gallery in Los Angeles, celebrates this watershed period.
Turnham’s silkscreens are bold graphic interpretations of the Golden State’s modernist architecture, including the Mondrianesque Eames House; the Griffith Observatory; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House; and the flying saucer-shaped Theme Building at LAX, a paragon of Googie architecture.
What makes this particular breed of modernism Californian? “It’s the way these properties are integrated into their landscapes,” Turnham writes in an email:
When we think of modernism, we think of simple shapes and streamed lines. But it’s deceptively complex, and a good piece of modern architecture is really defined by how it relates to the environment it’s in. The Stahl House can’t be anywhere; it has to be on the mountain side. And the Eames House wouldn’t be the Eames House without the shield of eucalyptus trees it hides behind. Southern California provides a variety of topography and plant life that make these pieces of modern architecture truly special.
His work offers a nostalgic 21st-century homage to the work that helped shape California’s ecstatic design legacy.
The silkscreens are on sale here for $135 to $300.
California Modernists: Solo Exhibitions of Loris Lora & Chris Turnham is on view at Gallery Nucleus until March 1.