Esther McCoy at her drafting board, mid-1940s, Los Angeles. Courtesy of Esther McCoy papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
This exhibition is the first to focus on the formidable range of architectural historian Esther McCoy's practice, and affirm her unassailable role as a key figure in American modernism. Writer Susan Morgan and MAK Center director Kimberli Meyer collaborated in researching McCoy's archives and selecting documentation. Key points highlighted include McCoy's work in the 1930s on Los Angeles slums and the labor movement, her involvement with Arts & Architecture magazine and the Case Study House Project, her lectures and writings on twentieth-century Southern California architecture, her efforts to save Irving Gill's Dodge House, and her fiction writing as it intersected with architectural topics. The exhibition includes photographs, drawings, texts, videos, and audio interviews. A publication with a biographical essay was produced for the exhibition. Additionally, a book of selected writings, published by East of Borneo Press, is presented concurrently with the show.
Kimberli Meyer is a curator and has been the director of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture since 2002. She is a frequent lecturer and writer on architecture, art, and urban design issues. She has received an Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation Exhibition Award for her exhibition How Many Billboards? Art In Stead (2010); an étant donnés grant for curatorial research (2006); and a full-scholarship to the Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders in the Arts, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (2006). She was a commissioner for the U.S. Presentation at the International Cairo Biennial (2008), and cocurator of the MAK Center exhibitions Symmetry, Showdown, and the Gen(h)ome Project. Meyer has an MFA in fine arts from the California Institute for the Arts, and a BArch from the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Susan Morgan has written extensively about art, design, and cultural biography, in addition to conducting interviews. Her work has appeared in diverse publications such as the New York Times, Aperture, World of Interiors, and O: The Oprah Magazine. She has been a contributing writer for Elle, Interview, and Mirabella and from 1997–2009, served as contributing editor at Metropolitan Home. For twenty years, Morgan has conducted numerous interviews for biographies, magazines, and oral history projects; her subjects have ranged from Beatrice Wood to Paul Bowles, Vija Celmins to Gore Vidal. With Thomas Lawson, Morgan cofounded and coedited Real Life Magazine, an alternative art publication produced throughout the 1980s. She is author of Joan Jonas: I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances)(Afterall/MIT Press, 2007) and editor of Esther McCoy: A Los Angeles Reader, a compilation to be published by East of Borneo Press in 2011.
Unique in its role as an historic site and exhibition space, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture develops local, national, and international projects exploring the intersection of contemporary art and architecture. The MAK Center seeks out and supports projects and ideas that test disciplinary boundaries. Acting as a "think tank" for current issues, the Center encourages exploration of practical or theoretical aspects in art and architecture by engaging the Center's places, spaces, and histories. Established in 1994, the MAK Center is housed in the Modernist landmark R.M. Schindler House (1921-22) in West Hollywood, which it uses as a primary presentation space. In addition, the MAK Center maintains and occupies two other Schindler-designed buildings, the Mackey Apartments (1939) and the Fitzpatrick-Leland House (1936).