It’s a busy time of year, but I noticed that I have not posted about the iconic Home Savings branch at 2600 Wilshire in Santa Monica — one of the best known and, depending on who you are, loved/hated branches.
Do you love it? You have lots of company — it is routinely the first branch mentioned to me, especially by LA Westsiders. And so discussions about other Sheets Studio work in Santa Monica and the lost Denis O’Connor-Sue Hertel mosaic that was on the Third Street Promenade tends to start with a glowing conversation about this branch.
John Edward Svenson has a soft spot for the sculpture of the girl riding the dolphin, over the parking lot door; his daughter served as the model. And the Ahmansons seem to as well: in a visit to the Ahmanson Foundation offices, I saw the small maquette of this sculpture prominently displayed.
And I think the building owners (MetLife, I assume, managed by CBRE) and their tenants after Home Savings — a mattress store, a cell-phone store, and now New Balance — have maintained the artwork in great condition. (More next week about how it is hard to see one element, though.)
But what if you hate it? Some love the Richard Ellis family group in front; others don’t understand the connection. Most who dislike the building focus on the mosaic, disliking the fabrication, by Denis, Sue, and others on a team led by Nancy Colbath – especially of the sunbathing youth (probably a girl and a boy, but because it is hard to tell, that adds to the grumbling).
If you do dislike it, you have company — in this case, Millard Sheets himself. Check out this quote, from a Smithsonian Archives of American Art oral history:
Interviewer Paul Karlstrom: I know the one, for instance, on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. I used to live right nearby. That’s I think at 25th or around there.
Sheets: I think that’s one of the poorer buildings.
Sheets: Now that’s my feeling. I always felt that I. . . . I didn’t like the way that one’s _____ was done.
Even more critiques from Sheets about this locale appear in a UCLA oral history. Just a reminder that the best artists can use their aesthetic sense to criticize problem art and architecture — even when it is their own.
Thanks to my colleague Pete Leonard for the images. Stay tuned for more about changes to the blog and more work on the book version ahead in 2013.