The “Cosmic Beauty” of Lebbeus Woods’ “Airplane Parts”

September 15, 2014

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Airplane Parts (1992-93), Lebbeus Woods, Modern Art and Design Auction, October 12, 2014

Architect and fine artist Lebbeus Woods’ futuristic renderings and drawings are admired for their strength and clarity of line, and for imagery that recognized parallels between the built environment and human psychology. Artforum noted: “Complex, chaotic, sometimes violent, and relentlessly avant-garde, Woods’ drawings explode with a kind of cosmic beauty. Shards of glass and steel morph and recombine into metallic animal-machines that walk high above cities. Buildings tear and bleed, only to grow scabs and heal into new form.” LAMA is pleased to present Airplane Parts (1992-93), a highly detailed, archetypal drawing by Woods, in the October 12, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction.

Airplane Parts presents an image of cryptic engineering and mechanical forms composed of curved and complex geometric elements. While such enigmatic, esoteric schema are often compared to science fiction, Woods rejected the notion. “I think that these things could be built,” he once said. “I would like them to be built, and to see what we can do with them, to see what they would mean to us.”

Among architects, Woods was revered as a visionary, provocative conceptualist who challenged his colleagues to defy conventions and commercial restraints. While some projects drafted in pencil and ink might seem wistful—a tomb in outer space
for Albert Einstein, for example—most of his drawn plans were intended as calls to action that dealt with global conflicts and catastrophes. Woods conceived of an underground city below divided Berlin, where citizens of East and West Berlin could meet and gather; he drew a scheme for a new, post-earthquake San Francisco: a city that would gently move in response to seismic shifts. And if such ideas seem fantastical, above all, Woods’ aim was to combat complacency.

Upon his death at 72, lengthy obituaries of Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012) appeared, significantly, in both Architectural Record and Artforum. Woods was that rare figure who commanded attention and respect in two major fields of creative enterprise, as an architect and as a fine artist.

Lamster, Mark. “Lebbeus Woods: 1940-2012.” News. Architectural Record. 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
Galloway, Alexander R. “Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012).” Passages.  Artforum. 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
Medina, Samuel. “Coming Home.” Architecture. Metropolis Magazine. Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
“Lebbeus Woods, Architect.” Past Exhibitions. The Drawing Center, New York, 27 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.

Lot 268
Lebbeus Woods
Airplane Parts
Graphite and colored pencil on illustration board
Bears the inscription in pencil “55” verso
Image/sheet: 11.75″ x 19.75″; Frame: 13.75″ x 21.75″
Provenance: Property from a Santa Barbara Collection
Estimate: $6,000 – 8,000

For more information, or details on how to bid, please contact a LAMA representative.


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