Bypassing L.A.'s Fixation on Cars

In two new exhibits on Los Angeles's modern architectural history - part of the sprawling Pacific Standard Time Presents initiative - the city's infamous infatuation with the automobile is examined and then left behind in the rear-view mirror.
June 3, 2013, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"'Los Angeles' identity is inextricably linked with the automobile,' reads the first line of wall text opening the Getty's current show about postwar architecture in Los Angeles ['Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future 1940-1990']," observes Alissa Walker. "Is driving what we talk about when we talk about L.A.'s modern architecture?", she asks. 

"It was with trepidation that I headed to the A+D Museum to see 'Windshield Perspective,' which is up through July 9. In my mind the title represented the worst stereotype of L.A., the idea that the city was designed for the car, its architecture is best appreciated from that car, and God forbid you ever get out of that car."

However, Walker finds that the exhibition, which examines L.A.'s built environment using a 12-block stretch of Beverly Boulevard, was not what she expected. "While it is about buildings, [curator Greg] Goldin's exhibition actually subverts the celebration of modernism in all the other PSTP shows."

"We're duking it out with them," he says. "This is the idea that the real design of L.A. is happening in the streets, that we’re making and remaking the city here on places like Beverly."

"Pacific Standard Time Presents gives us a chance to see how L.A. was made modern, but it also chronicles the rise and the fall of the car in Los Angeles culture," concludes Walker. "Maybe, by seeing this narrative so persuasively presented in museums, alongside the artifacts of other cultures, we can finally admit that our affair with the automobile is history."

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Published on Thursday, May 30, 2013 in LA Weekly
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