See the current “definitive list” here — and the interactive, scalable map of the locations (with some somewhat misleading information on which artwork is where) here. Map courtesy of BatchGeo.
Well, I have finally done it. About two years after I discovered I was working with hundreds, not dozens, of sites, I finally have something like a definitive list of the 138 Home Savings / Savings of America sites with artwork ready. This is thanks to the archival Sheets Papers and Denis O’Connor (DOC) Papers, and the notes in those files from Sue Hertel (SLH in my code) — and a lot of hard work from volunteer (and former Home Savings employee) Teresa Fernandez, and the magic of Google StreetView.
It is not perfect — and I need your help to send in corrections. Send in correct addresses, send in new status updates, send in alerts of places you think are threatened. I have found that the California Art Preservation Act is included in many of these contracts between artists and Home Savings — even when the artwork was in, say, Florida — so there is a mechanism to help with their preservation.
This is an imperfect simplification of my main work database, which holds the names of each artist who worked on each piece, archival notes, construction dates vs. completion dates, and more. But I do hope that it leads to a lot more information about the current state of this artwork coming to light!
First, the LA Conservancy has a Pacific Standard Time tour of Millard Sheets sites in Claremont and Pomona on March 18. A great time to see these connections; sign-up info here. Stay late in the day, and I should be on hand as well for a panel discussion.
Second, have you ever noticed how the Ahmanson building at the LACMA looks a lot like the early Home Savings buildings? Howard Ahmanson clearly had his favorite architects — Edward Durrell Stone, William Pereira, and Millard Sheets’s Studio — and it seems the museum building borrows from the Home Savings look — blank travertine faces with no windows, lower entrance ways, into soaring central spaces. Instead of teller windows and interior mosaic, you get more blank faces in the Ahmanson building atrium, hiding the floors of art behind.
Pacific Standard Timeis a juggernaut: over 60 exhibits in five Southern California counties, documenting and explaining — in many cases, for the first time — the role of the L.A. art scene on the world stage. The Getty has provided the bold vision (and the financing!) to create this massive multi-exhibit conversation, and the Performance and Public Art festival section of the shows, running from January 19 to 29, will only add to the marvel (and overwhelmingness) of it all.
Pacific Standard Time has included many overlooked artists, overlooked art forms, overlooked themes, and overlooked art. And what was included reflected what the participating art organizations wanted to highlight. But the fleeting presence of Millard Sheets in the Pacific Standard Time shows demonstrates some of the art-world boundaries that remain.
First, disclaimers: I know I am letting the myopia of my Home Savings project drive this post. I know that Sheets was already a nationally known artist before 1945. And I will get to the three Pacific Standard Time shows that include Sheets below.
As this blog and the associated research project suggest, Sheets’s most important art contribution to LA after 1945 was the art and architecture of the Home Savings banks. Sheets managed a studio full of artists and architects to turn initial sketches and an open-ended offer from Howard Ahmanson into landmarks of the local community, telling history and celebrating family life through very traditional art forms: mosaic; conventional figurative paintings; stained glass; sculpture. In no way avant-garde, done for a commercial patron to advertise their business, it is easy to understand why the Pacific Standard Time exhibits (and other standard art-history studies) have missed the importance of these Home Savings works for the landscape of postwar southern California (and beyond).
But — there are elements of this story in four of the Pacific Standard Time exhibits. In order of increasing relevance, I give you:
4) California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way” at LACMA. This is the marquee decorative-arts and design exhibit for Pacific Standard Time, and it delivers — everything from an Airstream trailer to the reconstruction of Charles and Ray Eames’s living room in the gallery. There are the perfect exemplars that match the white-walled modernist setting — for example, a Japanese-style screen painted by Millard Sheets — but also lots of helpful contextual information on the source of inspirations, the choice of design media, the marketing and distribution of these products, often intended for the home or daily use. Items from Sheets’ influential 1954 Arts of Daily Living show are echoed here as well.
Dora De Larios’ work was also included in the Autry’s Pacific Standard Time exhibit, part of the L.A. Xicano subset of PST. Race and memory, nostalgia and the growing multiculturalism of postwar southern California is key to how I situate the Home Savings artwork, so I found
2) Sandra De La Loza’s Mural Remix installations at LACMA very powerful. I particularly like the video installation where naked men and women paint the murals onto themselves (through some green-screen magic), demonstrating some of the ways in which the murals become a part of us — something that I think is true of the Home Savings work as well. The more standard video documentary — catching up with Judy Baca and other 1970s Chicano muralists in LA — has lots of great info as well. There is also an affiliated tour with Sandra on Saturday January 21.
After a semester on other projects, I am proud to announce that I am a Haynes Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library this semester, so I am working full-time on the history and preservation of the art and artwork of the Home Savings and Loan buildings.
My plan is to complete research in the papers of Millard Sheets and Denis O’Connor, and to track down more interview subjects and other paper collections to help me complete the research. By fall, I will be writing, and hopefully we can see a beautiful book, with lots of color images of this remarkable artwork, appear in late 2013/early 2014. So any tips, leads, and memories are always welcomed!
In the “radio-silent” period, I have been to Home Savings locations in the Bay Area and around Los Angeles, to Savings of America locations in Missouri, and to all the presentations I mentioned in my last post. Also, thanks to a Jonathan Heritage Foundation fellowship at the Autry National Center over the summer, I have determined more about where the “Home Savings style” drew from, in the decoration and marketing of other Los Angeles banks in the early twentieth century, especially Security Trust and Savings (later Security First, later Security Pacific). More about all that soon.
I also am proud to announce one new publication and two more great events to put on your calendar:
This month, look for a (cover?) story — by me — in Huntington Frontiers, the magazine of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, about the Home Savings and Loan artwork and the collections I am using.