The House That Sam Built

September 24, 2011

Stop what you are doing and get thee to The Huntington.

The openings of Pacific Standard Time are now happening fast and furious and you may be trying to decide which events to go see.  “The House That Sam Built”, which opened last night at the Huntington in San Marino, should be at the top of the list.  Exquisitely presented by curator Harold Nelson, the show brings together works by Sam Maloof and many of his contemporary craftspeople and artists.  The title of the show not only proposes that this group of artists created a stand alone structure within the mid-century modern community, but also makes a sly reference to Maloof’s own personal residence where nearly all of these artists’ works found a harmonious setting over the last half century.

For anyone who has even casually paid attention to this period, you will recognize many greatest hits. There is Sam’s iconic rocking chair, of course; ceramics by the Natzlers, Macintosh, and Andreson; paintings by Karl Benjamin, Millard Sheets, and Milford Zornes.  But, even more interesting is the lesser known artists and craftspeople that have been included, which previously have not received the proper attention and here are given a world-class venue to prove themselves. James Strombotne’s “Recognition” from 1958 clearly embodies the best elements of color, form and emotion found in figurative works of this period.  Arthur Ames’ “Origin” from 1970 does for enamel what artists like Craig Kaufman did for plastic.  And John Svenson’s “Sea Sprite” from 1967 is a monumental carving in wood that begs the question, ‘Where can I see other works by this artist?’.

One place to learn more about all the artists in the show is the beautiful catalogue of the exhibition.  Elegantly designed by Ron Shore, this book, titled The House That Sam Built,  is a valuable resource for any mid-century collector. It is loaded with photographs by John Sullivan and has informative essays by Nelson, Jerry Adamson, Jason T. Busch, Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, and Tia Vasiliou.

The exhibition runs through the end of January, but, trust me, don’t wait till later. Go see this show now.

– Peter Loughrey, Director of LAMA

For more information on the exhibit please visit The Huntington’s website. For images of the installation click here.

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