Wednesday, August 10, 2005

gehry sounds like a miss america contestant

this latimes article is an all-you-can-eat buffet into the mind and heart of frank gehry. and in a larger sense, of the ways designers and artists carefully craft their public image in the media. it almost makes me wish I could write a dissertation on the topic. oh wait, I already did. onward to the analysis:

"I've already got one winner, and I didn't want to push my luck," said Gehry, the architect behind Walt Disney Concert Hall, which sits in the midst of the planned development.

"But the gods have willed it otherwise," he said, "and I am very excited about it."
ah yes, the faux-modesty. the aw-shucks, I'm just a boy from canada who lucked out in LA. yet he also implies, he's just doing the lord's work. he's just a vessel of the ultimate Creator. "the gods have willed it otherwise." does the LA county board of supervisors consist of bible-thumping, praise-the-lord, red state republicans? I have to believe our board of supervisors wouldn't fit right in at a bill frist backyard bbq. (or maybe gehry's use of the plural "gods" is playing to the secret pagan minority).

notice as well he calls attention to his other "winner." he plays on that all-too-common dichotomy of "I'm a genius, but only by the grace of god." at least michelangelo actually believed that.

"At my age, I didn't want to get involved with just an ordinary development," Gehry said. "Especially on this site, with everybody watching. It's high profile, and we're going to have to deliver a special thing, or else I am going to get run out of town. So the heat is on."

he also lays the groundwork for future reviews. hey witold! get ready! this is no "ordinary development." he's going to give us a very "special thing." I've actually heard that gehry is a pretty nice guy - in a relative sense - compared to the prickly genius of a koolhaas, but I can't believe he's not consciously projecting a very careful image to the public. he's also clearly concerned with his legacy - at the age of 76 he must be thinking about what legacy he leaves behind as he shuffles off this mortal coil.

and then buried near the end of the article, for those of us who can slog through gehry's self-congratulatory pablum, some of the real issues:

...Some supervisors... expressed concerns that a number of major issues in the deal — including the final cost of the public park and the extent to which the public entities will subsidize parking under the park — are still unresolved. Yaroslavsky said that information given to the supervisors about the parking issue "has been very amorphous."
one of the more recent public park projects, millenium park in chicago, was budgeted at $150 million. by the time it was complete, it cost $475 million and was four years behind schedule. it would seem prudent for related, LA county and gehry to hammer out these details beforehand, to avoid ballooning budgets and major time delays.


At 2:35 PM, Blogger Tim said...

You may have a bee in your bonnet about this (though now I am looking forward to the book.) The things Gehry says remind me of the sort of answers athletes give when put on the spot. Bland, uplifting, pre-recorded. I imagine he was wishing for some decent questions.

Gehry is under attack these days whenever he breathes. It comes with the territory of being the poster boy for the re-birth of real architecture.

As for artists managing their reputations, that is as old as church ceilings. And as for artists having bigger than normal egos, it is a hard slog to be an artist in this culture and a big ego is a pretty understandable adaptation and, really, the only way to stay on par with your patrons, to gain their respect and maintain your center while dealing with them. You think art patrons don't have big egos?

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Related built the park in Chicago, so that bears some inspection. Gehry is not involved in the park, so far. Laura Olin is doing the landscaping, that may be the park. The county sold all the land to the city at the beginning of this so they are not so involved, but will get income from the project when complete (the real reason all this is happening, develop new income streams for the county and city)

Doesn't everything go over budget?

At 4:09 PM, Blogger marissa said...

hi tim. I have no doubt that gehry was given some very routine questions and all he could do was spout platitudes. and he is far from the only ego-driven, reputation-managing artist out there. in fact, I wrote a thesis last year for grad school that looked at that phenomenon and how it intersects with the process of globalization, using koolhaas as a case study.

so when I read statements like that, I have a knee-jerk grad student reaction to try to deconstruct the meaning behind the banality.

and (sadly) that's just for fun. the book proposal is completely unrelated to architecture. its about how copyright affects creativity and its based on a paper I co-authored last year for the norman lear center.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Ah, I assumed your book was coming from your thesis.

I thought I was offering a different deconstruction, a more mundane one but that was the point. Sometimes small talk is just small talk.

My point was that having a big ego and managing one's reputation is a natural adaptation to the environment artists operate in. That does not take away from the work or suggest that the work is damaged or influenced by that.

Having an ego and having ego driven work are different, the latter would be a demonstration of a lack of boundaries and a failure of judgment. I don't see that in Gehry's work. I see exuberance, fearlessness, determination and an active, inspiring mind. These are characteristics of a strong ego not an overactive one.


At 5:46 PM, Blogger Doran said...

Gehry does love to convey that hauteur image. It only slightly annoys me, but I like his adventurism (to a point) and he's certainly no Richard Meier, who's ego really drives me nuts (I remember seeing a clip of Meier complaining about workers displaying photos of their kids).

What struck me about the recent announcement is Gehry's saying he's going to "knock himself out" doing this. For some reason I kept thinking he's liable to get his wish.


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