Design Dispatch: Exploring Lace

October 23, 2008

When Edward Steichen described the photograph he took of Gloria Swanson (which just went up on our street banners all over L.A. for Vanity Fair Portraits), he said, “I took a piece of black lace veil and hung it in front of her face. She recognized the idea at once… her look was that of a leopardess lurking behind leafy shrubbery, watching her prey.”

Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen, 1924, Vanity Fair, February 1928, © Condé Nast Publications Inc.

Lace can act as a shrubbery of sorts—obscuring and diffusing—but it can also embellish in a way few fabrics can, its transparency allowing it to practically become part of the object. This concept of ornamentation is one reason Vanity Fair Portraits′ lead designer, Maja Blazejewska, was intrigued by the fabric—so much so that she used it in the exhibition’s typography, its entrance wall, and on a few products she created for the museum shop. The socks she designed, which she’s modeling below, feature four lace patterns from LACMA’s own collection. They’re all chantilly lace, which is distinguished by its delicacy and complexity of floral pattern—in these particular examples, the floral motifs are made by hand and outlined with a heavy silk thread.

As clever as these socks are, the design of Maja’s I’m most intrigued by is a digitized lace pattern, which she created as an homage to digital photography found in the exhibition.

She’s taken a fresh approach to something aged, and to hear her describe the process of creating the pattern—”even though I was working on a computer, it really felt like I was sewing, it was so time-intensive and intricate”—makes me dig it all the more. You can check it out in full bloom on the entrance wall to the exhibition; the show opens this Sunday.

Brooke Fruchtman

1913: A Year for Debuts

October 22, 2008
The corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, c. 1920

The corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, c. 1920

Opening at LACMA this Sunday, Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008 spans the entirety of the magazine’s history, stretching back to the launch of Dress & Vanity Fair in 1913. It was a pretty illustrious year for debuts.

In March, the legendary Armory show opened in New York, captivating and confusing critics and crowds alike. Causing the biggest stir were the galleries for cubist and futurist artists, whom former President Theodore Roosevelt described as “the lunatic fringe.” Noting Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, American Art News offered $10 to any reader who could identify either a nude or a staircase.

Plenty was also happening in Los Angeles in 1913. On November 6, the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art opened in Exposition Park, and the Owens River Valley Aqueduct began bringing water to the city—a primary force in making this soon-to-be metropolis a livable region.

About three weeks after water and culture arrived in L.A., Cecil B. DeMille followed—fleeing the East Coast because Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company had monopolized the industry. In L.A., DeMille filmed his first feature, The Squaw Man; it was shot in a rural part of town—Sunset and Vine.

DeMille stayed in Hollywood for the rest of his career. An aviation enthusiast, he bought up land all over the city for airfields—one of which was located at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, right across the street from the future site of LACMA. Next time you drive by Johnie’s or the 99 Cent Store, imagine DeMille taking off in his JL-6.

Scott Tennent

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