Think Pink: Vandalized Design Inspires a Rebirth in Los Angeles


Although he can’t remember what they were doing, the block of La Brea Avenue they were on, or the name of the store that caught his eye, Stephen Prina clearly recalls one detail from a night out with a friend: A garish pink item in a spotlight. Crossing the street to get a better look, they saw a tag that identified it as a piece of furniture by modernist architect Rudolph M. Schindler. “It had obviously been pried out of its original location and painted,” says Prina. “I was both fascinated and repulsed by it, because it seemed like an act of vandalism.” He likened the piece to an amputated limb.

The souvenir from that decades-old memory is “As He Remembered It,” an exhibit by Prina on view at LACMA through August 4. The encounter inspired him to track down the original drawings for two of Schindler’s demolished LA homes—the Hiler and Harris residences built in the 1940s—and in 2011 he constructed every stick of built-in furniture from the plans, showcasing the famed architect’s emphasis on designs for modern living.

Before the exhibit, Prina was no stranger to the work of Schindler, an Austrian émigré who came to California in 1920 as an acolyte of Frank Lloyd Wright; a visit to the preserved Schindler House on Kings Road served as the bicoastal artist’s introduction to modernist California architecture. Designed in 1922 as a personal home for Schindler and his creative contemporaries, it functioned as a multidisciplinary salon that housed artists, dancers and other legendary architects such as Richard Neutra. “My friends and I called it ‘the spiritual center of Los Angeles,’” Prina says. Yet before Schindler died, his estranged ex-wife, Pauline, defaced the home by basting the interior with bright pink paint. It was this act that perhaps most informed Prina’s decision to paint his pieces hot pink, a color also inspired by Pantone’s 2011 Color of the Year, Honeysuckle. “Pauline’s vandalism was seen as the ultimate feminist rebellion,” he says.

Whether the furniture that he spotted in the La Brea Avenue storefront was torn from the pink incarnation of the architect’s home, Prina will never know. He didn’t revisit the area where he spotted the piece, nor did he peer into the crevices of the Schindler House, where remnants of Pauline’s mutinous paint job are still visible. “It’s not about truth or trying to replicate these pieces exactly as they were,” says Prina, whose show allows him to link his initial memory to Schindler’s original designs. As the architect had done so many years before, Prina used inexpensive plywood during construction and stained the pieces in site-specific colors drawn from the terrain of each home—gray-green after the eucalyptus trees at the Hiler residence and sandy gray after a massive rock at the Harris house. He then masked the stains with pink paint and laid out the furniture in a contrived grid, where it lacks the support or context of its original architecture. “The furniture we saw in the window was sagging—it needed to be attached to the walls of its design,” says Prina, whose Hiler, Bedroom, No. 4 features a drooping clothes rod with no anchor at one end. “My pieces will probably collapse in the next few years,” he says. “My plan is to leave them like that.”

This was originally published in California Home + Design’s Summer 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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