October 5, 2011 - MAK Center for Art and Architecture - An exhibition and two new publications on Esther McCoy
October 5, 2011

An exhibition and two new publications on Esther McCoy

Image courtesy of Esther McCoy Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Sympathetic Seeing:
Esther McCoy and the Heart of
American Modernist Architecture and Design

September 28, 2011–January 8, 2012
www.makcenter.org

Piecing Together Los Angeles:
An Esther McCoy Reader

Published by East of Borneo Books, November 2011
www.eastofborneo.org

The MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House
835 N. Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am–6pm

Writer Esther McCoy (1904–1989) was an attentive witness to the birth of a mid-century design and recognized the importance of California’s distinct architectural legacy. An ingenious historian and gifted literary stylist, McCoy articulated the concepts and vibrant character of West Coast modernism. Five California Architects, her landmark 1960 book, has long been regarded an indispensable classic. As Reyner Banham observed: “No one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all.”

This Fall, in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time, the Getty-organized initiative that brings together more than 60 Southern California cultural institutions and explores the birth of the Los Angeles art scene, McCoy’s exceptional life and work will be celebrated in an exhibition and two new publications presented by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and East of Borneo Books.

Sympathetic Seeing: Esther McCoy and the Heart of American Modernist Architecture and Design, co-curated by MAK Center director Kimberli Meyer and writer Susan Morgan, is the first exhibition ever dedicated to McCoy’s remarkable biography and groundbreaking work. The show, accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, surveys both the writer’s individual history and the swift evolution of 20th century Los Angeles. As Kimberli Meyer has noted, McCoy was “a woman at the edge of her time who challenged many to open their minds and think forward.” In Sympathetic Seeing, a personal and panoramic view of the modern era unfolds, told through McCoy’s considerable experience: as an activist journalist reporting on slum clearances and the low-cost housing crisis in Depression era Los Angeles; an architectural draftswoman delivering an insider’s understanding of R. M. Schindler’s studio; a discerning fiction writer and regular contributor to mainstream publications and design journals; and a dedicated champion of modern architecture who campaigned to preserve the Dodge House (Irving Gill, 1916), the first truly modernist residence in the West.

Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader, edited and with an introduction by Susan Morgan, is the first anthology of McCoy’s writing and the debut title from East of Borneo Books, an imprint of the collaborative online magazine East of Borneo. This first anthology of McCoy’s writing, Piecing Together Los Angeles includes essays, magazine features, unpublished lectures, personal correspondence, memoir, and short stories. From 1940s fiction published in The New Yorker to seminal essays on innovative architectural forms, this new collection illuminates the breadth of McCoy’s work and the Southern California region that inspired it. Throughout an impressive writing life that spanned sixty years, McCoy charted the progressive territory of American idealism—the collective utopian spirit of Jazz Age Greenwich Village, the Depression, the War years, post-War prosperity, the 1960s, and Modernism itself.

Related Events:

Esther McCoy Film Screening
Saturday, October 22, 7 pm
Schindler House
An evening film screening and discussion that will include Architecture West (1950), written by Esther McCoy and directed by Erven Jourdan; and, The Dodge House, 1916 (1965), written by Esther McCoy and directed by Robert Snyder.

Piecing Together Los Angeles book launch and reading
November 7, 6:30 pm
Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica
Tickets are free but reservations are required.
beachculture88-5-eorg.eventbrite.com

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