editorial     Aug 27 2009

It’s not all Botox and Beverly Hills

Mapos LLC

Some years ago I was at friend’s party in Los Angeles. I was living there at the time and becoming immersed – and enthralled – with the “city” and mindset in Southern California. Like any place I spend a particular amount of I time, I inevitbaly try to discern what is unique about a place. What could only happen here that could not happen anywhere else? Call it a quest for identity, and taste for the zeitgeist, or simply an innate desire to not feel like an outsider, I wanted to know what it was about LA that made it tick. And despite my New York centric view of the world, I wanted to know why I liked it so much.
There were the obvious reasons, to be sure. The weather. The ocean. The beaches. The mountains. The desert. The laid-back “California lifestyle.” There’s also the fact that LA could be considered a one-industry town. Like politics to Washington, Autos to Detroit, and insurance to Hartford (snooze), Los Angeles is about film-making, and this singular industry just happens to be a creative act that generates huge sums of money which then supports other creative industries, from the arts, to music, to architecture. At last count there are 7 major architecure schools in the LA area (and countless more design academies) – more than found here in New York – graduating young and energetic creative types who throw themselves at their craft with progressive vigor and experimentation. And the climate helps, too. It’s easier to push the boundaries of architecture if you don’t have to worry that much about rain and snow and insulation. All of this creative output definitely makes Los Angeles a capital of creative output in this country. Now don’t get me wrong. New York, and Mapos with it, are not going anywhere. There’s just something about LA that I was trying to put my finger on.

In a recent article in the Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff pays tribute to Charles Gwathmey and the fading importance of the “New York Five,” who are now the elder and passing figures of New York’s prominence in Art and Design. Somewhere along the way, Gehry and Kappe and Mayne and Rotondi and Ruscha and Irwin and Turrell and Moss and Eames and Koning grew into the most influential and exuberant artists and designers in the US. What happened to the promise of New York?
At my friend’s party, a fellow guest quickly – and without any prompting – suggested why LA was the epicenter of a movement, and the reason for my crush. He simply said , “it’s the Wild West.” His theory was we were living at the Western edge of the Western hemisphere and we had run out of places to move on to. This is where civilization came to some sort of wall and doubles back on itself, building on the collective captive energy pushed up against the end of the world. Anything is possible in LA. The sun keeps moving West.