Postmodernism was a colorful reaction to Modernism’s high seriousness. Now Matthew Sullivan and a new generation of designers are drawing inspiration from the attitude, the aesthetics, and the arcane theory, of the rebel designers post-68. Maura Lucking and Matthew Sullivan discuss why.
Also, Matt Holzman explores a development that almost destroyed the Santa Monica Pier, and moved a city from right to left.
Matthew Sullivan and Design That Doesn’t Save the World
Matthew Sullivan is an artist and furniture designer based in LA and he has his own firm Al Que Queire (AQQ) – loosely translated from the Latin, “for he who wants it.”
His work has been seen most recently at Parachute Market in downtown and at KCRW’s Celebration of Design at Helms Bakery last April (Temple chair, left; Matthew stands at his Helms display, below right). On this DnA, Maura Lucking talks with Matthew and me about his brightly colored, playful work (almost toy-like in being made explicitly of parts) and how it fits into a broader design revival, in which young designers are looking for a new form of expression that doesn’t take itself as seriously as the high-minded work inspired by LA’s midcentury Modernism.
She also points out that these designers are inspired not only by the aesthetics of Postmodernism but also the rebel attitude of the post-68 period when, in their view, designers were a little less in thrall to corporate imperatives; the problem with design with a capital D, says Matthew, is the extent to which it is “trying to be what capitalism needs to keep going” while pretending to be about use and function.
It was a period that also spawned a love affair with theory and Maura finds that structuralist theory from the late 60s and 70s is “super-important” for Matthew Sullivan, saying “His starting point with a chair is actually a book,” and involves “questioning all those assumptions about why things are the way they are and why we live in certain ways.”
The Pier that Almost Wasn’t; Neverbuilt: Santa Monica Island
On this DnA we air the third of four stories created by KCRW’s Matt Holzman about LA’s Never Built projects.
In the late 1960’s, Santa Monica was literally growing up. Two 17-story apartment buildings were built along the beach near the southern edge of the city. Four more were planned. Single family homes south of Wilshire were torn down to build apartment buildings. In 1971, the city’s first real high-rise went up. That white, 21-story office building that still overlooks the ocean where Wilshire meets the sea. And then there was The Island: A proposed man-made, 35-acre island, right off the beach, connected to the mainland by a sinuous automobile causeway.
But building the island would mean destroying the Santa Monica Pier and the fight to save the beloved pier would transform Santa Monica.
Matt Holzman tells the story.
Never Built: Los Angeles is on exhibit at A + D Museum until October 16.