Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Robert Irwin is all about context—or, more to the point, our perception of context. For close to four decades, he’s made art about how we see place and atmosphere: His gallery installations transform lowly fluorescent tubes and fabric scrim into otherworldly environments, and his carefully attuned landscapes offer up meditations on color, light, and time. His precise placement of one light bulb or one tree might lead viewers to reconsider their understanding of a window, a painting, or even the sky. So it’s a wonder to learn that the artist’s studio is no place of any note—a rental unit among a series of roll-up doors in a nondescript warehouse just north of La Jolla, Calif. Read More …

When SOM’s federal courthouse opens in downtown Los Angeles, the 633,000-square-foot civic edifice will feature a monumental new artwork from L.A.-based artist Catherine Opie. Over the course of her career, Opie has taken on many architectural subjects: freeways, modernist interiors, and even lonesome icehouses. The General Services Administration commissioned her six-panel photographic mural of Yosemite Falls, which is installed in the multi-story atrium of the boxy glass building. Mimi Zeiger spoke to Opie about architecture, nature, and justice. Read More …

At 95, the dancer, choreographer and activist Anna Halprin has no time for nostalgia. Last summer she celebrated her birthday with a performance on the dance deck at her home in Marin County. Bare feet on redwood boards, white hair framed against the pine trees beyond, she was as present and lively as when her late husband and collaborator, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, first built the deck for her in 1954. Read More …

“If all possible old building stock in Los Angeles was converted to creative office space, that still wouldn’t meet the demand for creative offices,” a commercial real estate broker once explained to me.

At the time, his company was trying to crack the workplace code: how to cater to the technology sector’s voracious taste for converted industrial warehouses and lofts? Established tech companies and startups alike had aligned the rough-and-ready aesthetics of the artist studio with the well-worn terms of Silicon Valley – disruption, innovation, and flexibility. Read More …

Last month, LACMA announced that James Goldstein — an eccentric personage familiar courtside at Lakers games — had promised his iconic John Lautner–designed home to the museum. The gift, which includes $17 million (£12.1 million) for preservation and maintenance, was widely reported along with the well-known piece of pop cultural trivia, that the house was featured in a Coen brothers’ film — as summed up with one clickbait headline: The Porn House From The Big Lebowski Has Been Donated to a Museum. Read More …

Architecture of Life. There’s nothing retiring about the ambitious title of the inaugural exhibition of The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). When the new building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro opens at the end of January, the sweeping survey curated by museum director Lawrence Rinder will fill all of the galleries with an imaginative, interdisciplinary, and international collection of some 250 works drawn from art, architecture, and science. Read More …

There is a letter in a drawer in Chicago’s Graham Foundation library; a sheet of Orange Coast College stationary dated 8 April 1980. The letter is from artist Barbara Kasten to Florence Henri, a photographer (then in her late 80s and living in Paris) who had been contemporary with many avants of early 20th-century Europe: Jean Arp, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy, who she studied under at the Bauhaus. In it, Kasten asks to visit Henri and interview her as part of NEA-funded project to videotape six female photographers who had made “major contributions in the field” – figures whose work was troublingly dropping out of the historical narrative. Read More …

First published in the exhibition catalogue for Vacancy: Urban Interruption and (Re)generation, edited by curator Neysa Page-Lieberman. (You can download a PDF of the catalogue or order the hard copy through the Glass Curtain Gallery.) Read More …

The gesture was more graceful than the act. With one generous flick of the wrist I sent the paperback sailing across the room. The book, The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, is a small volume tri-authored by an intellectual supergroup: novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, international curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and cultural critic Shumon Basar. In wry deference to its subject, the cover is inked in an oil slick chromo metallic. As Earthquakes arced from the couch to the closet door, which it hit with a thud before dropping to the floor, light reflected off its glistening surface, giving the appearance of a salmon spawning upstream.

(For the record, S,M,L,XL also boasts a silver cover, but I can’t imagine throwing the six-pound tome very far. Earthquakes, by contrast, is lightweight at 7.8 ounces).

When it landed, facedown, pages splayed and pressed against the floor, the half-light of the living room lamps seemed to illuminate a mysterious object. An alien ship crash-landed on oak boards. And so it sat there for a few days. Until my irritation with leaving a book on the floor trumped my irritation with the book itself and I picked it up. Read More …

I couldn’t sleep last night. LA was having another heatwave and rather than lay awake I read a back issue of The New Yorker, catching up on a report that said a Cascadian earthquake was overdue and would knock out much of the Pacific Northwest. A resulting tsunami would break across the West Coast devastating all architecture and infrastructure west of Interstate 5. “Toast,” noted author Kathryn Schulz.

After falling into a fitful slumber, dreaming of higher, more stable ground, I awoke to another blazing day courtesy of climate change. The sky was singed brown at the edges from wildfires taking out homes somewhere more easterly and the sound of helicopters – the vernacular “ghetto birds” – circled overhead. The reason for police action was neither immediately clear nor personally threatening. I made a note – “get earthquake kit” – then brewed coffee. Pending crisis averted.

Over the last decade, especially with the rise of research-oriented design practices, architecture has tried (and struggled) to address crisis. Specific methodologies vary, but two modes dominate: pre- and post-natural disaster. The second we recognise as social-impact design from the likes of Shigeru Ban and others. MacGyver-like, architectures responsive to aftermath are deployable, agile, and cheap. They may even earn you a Pritzker. Read More …