Xavier Veilhan Architectones

Architectones is the title of a series of works between sculpture and architecture created by Kasimir Malevich. I chose to name my project after these works by Malevich because my very concern is to establish a dialogue between art and architecture, in a personal list of modernist venues that I have chosen from around the world. This is not a show about the history of architecture or another white cube exhibition; it is the answer to a question that I asked myself: what would be the best, most challenging and most beautiful place for my work? “Architectones” begins in Los Angeles at Richard Neutra’s VDL: this is the most important modern architectural private residence in America, as well as an architecture practice. The VDL is house and a machine, the result and the template of the brilliant development and vision of a young Austrian architect discovering the west coast and revealing his vision to his American clients. I have been lucky enough to stay in this house: it is not about façade, but about function, it is not about size or luxury, but about light and the relationship with the outside. The inside of the building has been designed like a car, a plane or even more like the cabin of a boat: it is the perfect equation between people and function. It is a unique opportunity for me to live, work and exhibit in this House: I will create a whole body of site specific works, related to both actual experience and Richard Neutra’s life as a grid for a new type of art works narrative. The House is in an in between space, halfway between privacy and public, actual real time experience and history. I want “Architectones” at VDL to seize, celebrate and extend the idea of modernity that this architecture represents.

The VDL house is a special house, similar to the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, it was conceived by the architect for its own purpose, to live and work in. The VDL is a complex building, for example, it has 12 separate doors on the outside alone. It is like a machine, a vehicle or a boat. Each room is created like a cabin; the house is both a shelter and a device to interact with the outside surroundings. The first VDL was built in 1932 and unfortunately burned down in 1963, the year I was born. It was rebuilt a year later. The house is part of the history of architecture, but also the history of Richard Neutra’s private life. I believe I discovered this appreciation for modernist architecture as a child, from magazines or movies: some houses immediately appeared to be ideal. I initially did not know that they were considered architecture beyond those objects, as they felt more like autonomous manufactured objects to me.

Mobile (Neutra) The Golden Mobile is the only piece within the 12 pieces shown at the VDL that is not painted purely black. This is the exception that proves the rule. Neutra’s architecture is based on an accurate use of technology and orientated towards natural elements: similar to the mobile, a precisely balanced device that reveals the space and movement of an invisible element like air or wind. Like a large tree, the facade of the trunk and the branches will always be there but as time or certain elements begin to interact with it differently, certain aspects of the tree, or in this case, the work, change. Neutra’s architecture is playing with the idea of transparency and reflection, similar to me with my Golden Mobile. From the first mobile I designed in 2004, I always felt that they were a representation of people’s silent thoughts as they remind me of speech or idea bubbles. At the VDL, it happened to be more of an expression of our host, Richard Neutra.

Neutra on Horseback For the first time, I approached the biographical dimension of my subject: this is without a book by Thomas Hines. Neutra evoked this anecdote himself: guarding post, he had the habit of mounting his horse in the nude to go swimming in the lake nearby. This image of such a venerable architect naked and at one with nature really resonated with me. After hearing his story, I decided to pose nude. I then carved a horse and its rider out of Styrofoam. The surface of the work is sculpted with carved stripes reminiscent of wooden sculptures. For technical reasons, this piece is mounted although the aspect is one of a directly sculpted piece.

Carpets On the ground floor of the VDL the show displays an ensemble of overlapping carpets: the shape of California and Austria (Richard Neutra’s native country), the silhouette of the architect and some of his buildings. As the viewer walks into the architect’s house, they walk directly on the stacked elements of his life.

Flag The fixed image of the flag evokes the historical situation of the listed house. It is also a sign of this special private building opening out to the public. The black colour is blank.

The Silhouettes Street signs, a typical Los Angeles image: a blank shape.

Blue Flame Richard Neutra’s architecture is industrial as well as being orientated towards nature. I feel the migration of the Austrian architect is parallel to the change in his architecture and the way it opens out towards the environment. I particularly like the fact that this interest, developed in California, does not pose the question of technology versus environment: the house and the machine are a way to enjoy nature differently. I feel that the space odyssey can be seen as a new way to discover nature. It should be the same with the development of cars, speed in travel and modernist architecture. Richard Neutra died in 1970, the year that the Blue Flame won the ground speed record. Raymond Neutra, his son, told me that his father used to be driven by his wife Dionne in a Nash car, which specifically allowed the front seats to be reclined: so, Richard could enjoy a view of the sky instead of the awful architecture on Silver Lake Boulevard. One day, as he was driven the same way under a canopy of rhododendrons forming a tunnel above the car, he told his wife and kids how beautiful it was with tears in his eyes. Given this anecdote, I imagine the famous architect reclining in the rocket-like vehicle and being projected into the future.

Black banner being pulled by a Cessna The show is about a European architect discovering and revealing California: a civilization based on car culture, the powerful presence of nature and the culture of signs (film culture and street signs for example). The blank silhouettes are hanging on scaffolding like cut-outs from reality, void and preserved spaces. The typical Los Angeles plane pulling a banner is reduced to a blank black shape flying past, an announcement for nothing but the show, using no words and no image other than the communication device itself. Have we lost the feeling for modernity? Is the VDL house the message or the medium for it? How do we deal with new things as a part of our history?

VDL Model The house as an object; the object as a house. A model is the first visualization of a project, the first step towards the third dimension. I am reinterpreting this project with variations of size and shape: the house is simplified and twisted, with an exaggerated perspective, as a reinterpretation of the design statement it was towards the future. Am I looking for the original feeling that this architecture provided, or is it more of a transformation and adaptation of this feeling in line with the contemporary period?

Black Screens Highlighting the architecture, revealing the subtle use of reflections painstakingly created with transparencies, mirror reflections and adjustments of the inner spaces, regularly resuming the original impact of the colours and materials that have faded over the years. - Family silhouettes Veilhan/Neutra (and Richard and Dione?) Richard Neutra lived and worked for most of his life at the VDL: as a family of five. Like the Neutra family, I have lived and worked there as an artist, investing the space physically and with specially created objects. The Silver Lake Boulevard house is discreet, so I am publicizing this private experience, like a metaphor for the intimate and professional function of the house. This landmark is now heralded with a street sign, a silhouette of the creator and his family.

Ford model B This Hot Rod type of car features a visible engine that has been replaced with a model of the VDL. Ford model B is a common car from the early Thirties that has been transformed, simplified and whose engine was transformed to provide more power in the Sixties; it has a history parallel to the VDL, built in 1932, destroyed by fire in 1963 and rebuilt in 1964. Both house and car are updated shapes of modernity. The VDL house is a mechanical device almost as much as a piece of architecture. The experience of living in this house was to me similar to a car or a boat in many ways.

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