Exploring LA: A Special Visit to SoCal Exhibitions and Studios

Dec 29, 2022

Decorative Arts Trust members enjoyed an unforgettable experience in Los Angeles earlier this month. Led by Matthew A. Thurlow, Catherine Carlisle, and Jessie Dean, participants gained from an energizing range of innovative and influential sites. 

Friday, December 2 began with an exploration of two outstanding exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Bobbye Tigerman, the Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator, Decorative Arts and Design, guided us through Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980, a show she curated with Trust Governor Monica Obniski. The highly anticipated exhibition features accounts of Scandinavian designers who immigrated to the United States, Americans who studied or worked in Nordic countries, the ambitious campaigns to market and export Scandinavian design to American consumers, and the American and Nordic figures who championed sustainable and accessible design practice. Bobbye’s hope for this exhibition was that every visitor would find an object that connected with them, since so many of these objects were marketed broadly and often affordably, and have a place in our memories. Members were delighted by the exhibition’s bold design and display, which included a broad but purposeful selection of furniture, servingware, textiles, and even a car and a troll doll.

Staci Steinberger, Associate Curator, Decorative Art and Design, then shared Conversing in Clay: Ceramics from the LACMA Collection. This exhibition explores the medium through 14 case studies, placing historical works in visual dialogue with contemporary examples to illuminate symbolic meanings, technical achievements, and resonances throughout time.

In the afternoon, members traveled to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture to meet Director Jia Yi Gu at the MAK Center’s Fitzpatrick-Leland House, a 1936 model home designed by R.M. Schindler. The house commands a strong presence along the slope of Laurel Canyon and Mulholland Drive, and the light-filled interiors and carefully planned grounds made this an enlightening visit.

The day ended with a delightful reception at the home of Susan and Roy Meals. The Mealses graciously shared tours of their charming 1920s California Monterey Colonial and lovingly cultivated gardens.

On Saturday, December 3, we traveled to the Craft in America Center to visit with Emily Zaiden, Director and Lead Curator, whom members may remember accepting the 2020 Prize for Excellence and Innovation. Joan Takayama-Ogawa, ceramic artist and Professor in Ceramics at Otis College of Art and Design, guided us through her Ceramic Beacon exhibition. The show is the first significant survey of this respected Pasadena-born-and-based artist, known for conveying her candid and prophetic take on contemporary life through playful and witty narratives in ceramics.

We then journeyed to KT Glassworks to meet the glass artist Kazuki Takizawa. Kazuki crafts elaborate vessels and installations, each with a unique story. His work has garnered recognition through prestigious awards, exhibitions, and artist residencies. Kazuki and his team demonstrated their process for creating a “rock goblet,” and we were awed to see the delicate management of timing, temperature, and symmetry that goes into every vessel.

This program concluded with a fabulous visit to Wiseman Studio, located in the vibrant arts district of Frogtown, which sits along the Los Angeles River. David Wiseman’s work draws inspiration from a fascination with the natural world, global decorative arts traditions, and a reverence for honoring timeless craft techniques. His porcelain cherry blossom ceilings, bronze patterned filigree folding screens, and polished marble and terrazzo inlaid furniture affirm and perpetuate the relevance ornament and beauty can play in contemporary architecture and life. Our tour started in the pristine showroom, and continued to the studio and on-site foundry. We enjoyed the opportunity to glimpse David’s work at every stage of design and production, which included many pieces commissioned for private collectors around the world.

We could tell by the smiling faces of the members and the buzz of conversation that this trip was one to remember. Thank you to our hosts and all who explored LA with us!

For more information about upcoming decorative arts programs, visit our calendar of events

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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