If you knew about all of the architectural beauties that have been destroyed, you would probably get so frustrated that you would grind your teeth into dust. We have a supreme reverence for the capability and creativity in architecture, especially in relationship to personal residences. We live in a city where it is possible to live in a place that was designed by Richard Neutra or Frank Gehry. Few other places in the world have that opportunity!
Thinking about these beauties and placing them in other parts of the country—Rhode Island or Florida or far reaches of New England—brings in some overwhelming concerns. Is there a respect for these spaces? Apparently there isn’t that much and photographer Chris Mottalini has proved that with a show that opens today at Reform Gallery. Through a body of work called After You Left/They Took It Apart, Mottalini investigates various homes on the East coast designed by Modernist architect Paul Rudolph that were in shambles and, now, do not exist.
The show is arranged like a small Modern house, perhaps an entryway or exit to a patio atop of Reform’s Landing art space. There’s a white screen and painted glass that make you feel like you are inside of a nice, boxy hillside home in which photographs of houses in ruins are fixed to. Mottalini’s photographs are entrancing and frustrating. They capture pretty moments in a house’s falling apart and highlight architectural mastery. These spaces have conversations with the outdoors through large glass walled rooms. There are shelving units custom built into the space, suggesting the care architects like Schindler place into customizing a space (which Stephen Prina famously lampooned at LACMA). These houses are gorgeous and could be worth millions in good condition if they were in Los Angeles.
The reality of the situation is that these houses were abandoned and mistreated. In one house, vandals broke in and ripped through the property making (gorgeous) tears into glass, unsettling the cleanliness of Randolph’s designed lines. Another house appears to have had a fire and has been cleansed of any resemblance of human life. There are alien floor patterns and layered stucco that evoke that of a Mayan temple. Mottalini is able to share Randolph’s architectural mastery and the lack of reverence (and stupidity, really) held by those who encounter his work. The harsh reality to these works is that they no longer exist. As the title suggests, they were demolished.
This contemporary photography show at Reform—which is only their second showing of new work as they usually display mid-Century Californian artists—highlights how easy it is for objects of value to spiral into disaster, being stripped of its positives until it has to be ripped down. There is no answer as to whether these houses were so mistreated because of negligent owners or if they had just decayed after decades alone. Perhaps the financial crises a few years back had a big impact on them too? Whatever the case, you can’t help but think—and know—that a cringeworthy McMansion probably sits atop of these spaces. What a shame that would be—but at least we have Mottalini’s photos.
Photographer Chris Mottalini’s work will be on display at Reform Gallery from October 3 through November 30. There will be a reception for the work tonight, October 3, from 7PM to 9:30PM too. Mottalini will also be signing his book of this work at the opening, too.