Since I have been home, I have started many and finished one quick alla prima oil painting (below).
The architecture in my painting is loosely based on the House of the Future at Disneyland. The house, which opened in 1957 and has since closed, offered visitors a glimpse of modern living in the synthetic future.
Over the past year or so, I have been interested in modernist architecture, especially the Case Study Houses (1945 – 1966). The goal of this experiment commissioned by John Entenza, the editor for Art & Architecture magazine, was to innovate and restructure modern living in post-war America. The leading architects of the time, including Eliel Saarinen and Charles Eames, were enlisted to create efficient, economic housing for Americans in the wake of the World War II.
It is a gross understatement that the middle of the twentieth century spurred tsunami-scale tides of change worldwide. Evidence of these dramatic departures from preexisting culture are naturally present in the arts, especially in the radical ideology of Modernism.
In architecture, Modernists like Finland’s Alvar Aalto believed quality of life improved in tandem with one’s surroundings; you conform to your environment, not the other way around. Envisioning the future for modernist architects was often reflected in shiny surfaces like glass and polished metals without ornament or extraneous embellishment–the aesthetics of a machine. In the words of one this movement’s pioneers, French architect Le Corbusier: houses should be “machine[s] for living in.”
The problem is that many people I know don’t want to live in a machine. People invariably pollute the purity of modernist design, and they know it. The hidden message in the failure of modernism for me is that the desire for perfection is both oppressive, but necessary.
Disneyland’s House of the Future is a comic solution to the modernism dilemma. The design and architecture have been bowdlerized and repackaged for their context. The House of the Future is a caricature of modernist design, an accessible yet entirely plastic version of the stark decadence of modernism.