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Filmmaking Resume Segments of Documentaries Shot over the Course of Several Years

This documentary is titled Filmmaking Resume as a reference to short bits of architectural footage shot over the course of several years, and published in Architecture Awareness, Cultural Weekly and in this website.

 

Although I have also created short films on art, politics, and cultural events, my focus here is on architecture-as-space, the essential language of architecture. This short documentary illustrates fragments on the works of twenty recognized contemporary architects. As such, it expresses how good design can resonate on a much deeper level and lead to a higher quality of life.

 

In dealing with the human condition in the 2020 decade, some of my future films are likely to focus on topics such as housing, sustainability, and open urban spaces.

Doc Snippets Selected Documentary Segments

On a recent event at U.C.L.A., the 43rd Congress of the Romanian Academy of Arts and Science, I was invited by its Interim President, Prof. Ileana Costea, about what I do as an architect-filmmaker. I decided to edit “an extended trailer” of selected segments from my films. I called it “Doc Snippets.”

Beyond some short notes on my architectural practice and of my passion for film since I was a student, I saw the question “Why are architectural documentaries important?” as the most relevant. Why?

The transformation of the planet to accommodate 10 billion people by 2050 will demand the active input of all its inhabitants, which would include self-help. Architecture awareness is critical to confront planetary challenges such as climate change, sustainability, population growth, mobility, food production, conservation of natural spaces, visual pollution, and over-crowding.

My films, most of them on architecture-related subjects, try to inform the viewer about the relationship between quality-space and human scale, and about meaning in the configuration of spaces.

Shirin Neshat Magic Realism Without Smiles

Shirin Neshat is a great artist. She captures depth from the subjects of her photographic portraits, and she creates fiction in her films and videos at a quality level comparable to some of the works of Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonioni. Their uniqueness also derives from her feminine sensitivity and her understanding of ancient cultures. In doing so, she opens for the Western World a window to look at the other, beyond itself.

Shirin Neshat at her studio

The exhibition at The Broad is named “I Will Bring the Sun Again,” from the title of a poem by the Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad. It presents over 230 photographs and eight video installations, curated by Ed Schad. The images take us to ancient cultures that include not only Persia’s ancient history and traditions but also to Morocco, Mexico, Egypt, and Azerbaijan, not as tourists, but as observers of displacement, alienation, and political oppression.

The exhibition inspired me to produce a short documentary as an homage to Shirin Neshat’s work.

Black Power Art From "Soul of a Nation" to African American Art Now

Black Power Art was inspired by The Broad’s new exhibition in Los Angeles, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983.” It is intended to be an eye-opener, not just to the work of African-American artists during a crucial period of self-assertion, but also to echo African American art today. The timing is right. When bigotry is, once again, raising its head, consciousness of who we are as humans are critical.

The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, murals, and photography of 60 artists. It proclaims intellectual power vis-à-vis a little-aware public. However, the implication of the show is much broader. It brings the past as shown in the National Museum of African American History and Culture,  the eloquence of James Baldwin, and the biting humor of Spike Lee.

Good art is good art, or it is not good art, whether the artist is African-American, Latino, Asian or white. Many of the themes in the exhibition are thematic, expressing the black condition at the time. However, abstract examples such as Jack Whitten’s fierce, frontal black triangle, “Homage to Martin,” and William T. Williams’ homage to John Coltrane, “Trane,” with its slashing spectrum of diagonal bands of color intersecting and overlaying each other, join the work of great artists, irrespectively of their ethnical background.

'>Jasper Johns in L.A. and Vanguard Art Today Who are today's Jasper Johns? What is really 'avant-garde' today in art and architecture?

 

Jasper Johns’ exhibition at The Broad, titled “Something Resembling Truth,” is revealing. It illustrates the integrity of a life-long research and provides a stimulant example to the young generation. At a time when art flows in all directions without clear distinction and criteria between serious or trivial, committed or casual, Johns shows us how one can be an explorer of meaning and forms of expression without falling into platitude. The documentary tries to establish a link between one of the most important artists of the 1960s avant-garde, and some of today’s avant-garde artists in multiple disciplines and media: painting, sculpture, film, video-art, choreography, architecture. 

The show raises some questions: What is really ‘avant-garde’ today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns? Are there any ‘Leo Castelli-like” art dealers around? Are today’s architects connected to the art scene, and artists connected to architecture?

Fast backward: the display triggered some memories. During the late 1960s we were students of architecture in Rome. Since the National Academy of Modern Art was next door to our school, we visited it frequently. The Gallery’s director, Palma Bucarelli, was a strenuous promoter of Abstract Expressionists as well as Neo-Dada, Pop, Minimalist and Conceptualist artists. It was during that time when we first came across some of Jasper Johns’ paintings.

In parallel, while working as apprentices at the studio of architect Luigi Pellegrin, we listened to time and again his insights on the new American art. Opening a publication illustrating contemporary American art, he would say “Look at this well: it is acid, it is crude, it is purposefully not-finished. It reflects our time.” The design of his house in via Aurelia carried some of these attributes.

When we traveled to the United States to visit and photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture across the country, we started our trip in New York. It was 1971, and we were in our twenties. At the time, Soho was the epicenter of contemporary art. Leo Castelli had just opened two branches of his gallery on 77th street, one on the second floor of 420 West Broadway, and an even larger one at 142 Greene Street. It was there we saw newer works of Jasper Johns, along with those of several vanguard artists of the time: Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt.

A month later, when having a private stopover at Phillip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan, we visited, within his estate, Johnson’s ‘buried’ panting gallery and his underground sculpture gallery. They both contained multiple masterpieces of contemporary art.

Did we see any reflection of the art-of-the-times in architecture? Wright was out of all trends. The architecture of the establishment  “didn’t talk” to the on-going art vanguard. A rare exception was John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, built in 1970, outrageously demolished in 2014. Bruce Goff and Herb Green’s architecture were in-between organic and dissonant.

Fast forward to the present. The Broad exhibition of over one hundred Jasper Johns’ works, spanning sixty years of his career, is not a retrospective.  Works from different decades and in various media have been curated thematically, to demonstrate Johns’ career-long preoccupations.

And today? Art is breaking away from the confines of museums and art galleries. Perhaps the more strident example street art is the work of JR, which surpasses in scope that of Christo. He is not alone. There is a good number of forefront artists breaking new ground in film, video art, dance, sculpture, painting, music.

And in architecture? It is a tough call. Gehry led the way to liberate architects’ forms of expression, but the results come with many question marks about their social content. There seems to be an infatuation with the endless possibilities offered by new 3-D technology, but is… are these result also socially responsible?

Radio Day A Radio Interview Hosted by Nancy Pearlman

 Radio Day from Rick Meghiddo on Vimeo.

 We went to the open-house day of the “Pearlman Cabin” in Idyllwild, designed by John Lautner.  While being at the event, Nancy Pearlman asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed for her  KBPK 90.1 FM Environmental Directions program. I said, “Yes, when, where?” “Today, here,” she said. “OK,” I answered, surprised.

Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild. Architect: John Lautner.

Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild. Architect: John Lautner.

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman is an award-winning broadcaster, environmentalist, college instructor, anthropologist, editor and producer and who has made safeguarding the earth’s ecosystems a career. Since 1977, she has hosted and produced the country’s longest-running environmental radio show: Environmental Directions. 

I thought the main subject of the radio interview was going to be John Lautner. Unscheduled, and spontaneous, we touched many subjects: Wright, organic architecture, sustainability, Lautner’s architecture, the cabin’s integration to nature, Idyllwild, organic architects, Ruth’s Farm Urbana, solar energy, desalination and irrigation in Israel, population growth and a view of the future.  Several weeks later Nancy sent me an unabridged copy of the recorded interview, edited by Robert Payne. I decided to produce an abridged version of it, including relevant images and background music. The result is in the documentary included here.

John Lautner / Bob Hope Residence

John Lautner / Bob Hope Residence

John Lautner is one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright’s disciples I appreciate for his originality. He absorbed the essence of Wright’s philosophy without becoming an imitator of “the Wright’s style.”

I met him once. The encounter was circumstantial. During the late 1980s, a couple of clients we had planned to buy the Concannon Residence in Bel Air, designed in 1960, and wanted us to remodel it. We went to visit the site. The house was in very bad shape. It had been abandoned for more than five years by its owner, and puddles of water from leakings were everywhere.

Concannon Residence

Concannon Residence

Since Lautner was still an active architect, I suggested to visit him and check if he wanted to do the job, or if he had any particular suggestions. We went to his office, on the 7000-block of Hollywood Boulevard. In the middle of the waiting hall there was a huge model of a house at scale 1:20. When we entered his private office, a tall man with a grave voice stood up and shook our hands. I explained to him why we came. Facing my clients, he asked “with whom of you two shall I talk? I deal only with one person. If you have any differences of opinion, you solved them at home.” After listening what they had to say, he decided to delegate the project to us.  Before leaving, he handed to me a complete set of working drawings.

Our clients had indeed different opinions. So much so, that they ended up divorcing before the house was bought, and the project vanished. Recently, thirty years later, I learned from Lautner’s daughter, Judith, that the Concannon Residence had been demolished.

 

Stevens Residence, Malibu.

Stevens Residence, Malibu.

Segel Residence

Segel Residence

The problems ahead of us are not only quantitative, they are also qualitative. The message is how to create spaces for people in tune with resources and Nature.