Eames House and Hammer Museum

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Oct 14, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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My first stop of the day was the Eames House aka Case Study #8. This house was one of 25 homes built as part of the Case Study House program, which took place from the mid-1940s through the early 1960s, largely through the efforts of John Entenze, publisher of Arts and Architecture magazine. The magazine announced that it would be the client for a series of homes to be built and furnished using modern construction techniques and materials. The term "Case Study" refers to the program's idea of taking the needs of a hypothetical or real client and addressing those needs through a building design. The magazine would then publish the house plans for further reading and discussion by its readers.

The first design for Case Study #8 was done by Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen in 1945. Due to war-time restrictions the size of homes you were allowed to built was extremely limited and the original design was small. Parts were ordered for the house but due to the war, delivery was slow. By the time the parts arrived Charles and his wife Ray had decided to change the design and ordered the additional parts required for their modified design.

The house is made entirely from pre-fabricated, off-the-shelf, industrial materials. It was completed in late 1949. Charles and Ray Eames moved into the house and lived there the rest of their lives. It is a simple single-story home with two bedrooms in an upstairs loft and a separate single-story studio, which also has a loft. It's on a hillside in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles overlooking the Pacific. Several other Case Study homes are in the same neighborhood, including three on the same small street, although none of the others are open to the public.

It's possible to tour the grounds by appointment. They leave some doors and windows open for you but you aren't allowed to photograph or enter the interior of the house. It was open for tours for many years and has suffered a lot of wear and tear as a result, which is why interior tours are no longer available. Some of the original furnishings are still there but most were moved to the Eames Foundation and are stored there.

I next went to the Eames Foundation offices to see what they had on display. Most of their exhibit space was in transition between shows. They sell a number of pieces of furniture that were designed by Charles and Ray, all of which I'm very familiar with since I see them at auctions of 20th Century furniture all the time. They also had on display were some of the drawers from the sample cases that Charles and Ray kept. I had seen something about their sample cases in a movie being shown at a museum exhibit about them and I wanted to see the contents of some of the cases. The Eames's kept a bunch of sample cases at their studio as well as an office that they kept nearby. The sample cases had lots of drawers, filled with everything imaginable, all neatly categorized. They only had a few drawers on display. I would have liked to have seen more, but I found what I saw interesting.

My next stop was the Hammer Museum. It was built in 1990 to show two of Armand Hammer's collections, the Armand Hammer Collection, a collection of paintings and works on paper, and the Armand Hammer Daumier and Contemporaries Collection, a collection of the works of Honore Daumier and some others. They also had four temporary exhibitions: Paul Thek: Diver, a Retrospective; Hammer Projects: Linn Meyers; Hammer Projects: Danica Dakic; Paul McCarthy: White Snow Dwarf (Dopey #1);

The Armand Hammer Collection and the Armand Hammer Daumier and Contemporaries Collection are housed mostly in one room. It may be a small collection but the quality is high. The collection gives an overview of the major movements in 19th-Century French art, with significant examples of realism, orientalism, the Barbizon school, impressionism, post-impressionism, pointillism and symbolism. Some of the artists represented are Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro Gustov Moreau, Henri Fantin-Latour, Vincent van Gogh, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Tintoretto, and Titian. It also has American art from the 18th to 20th centuries. Among the American artists are George Bellows, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Stuart, and Andrew Wyeth. The room also houses a number of Daumier statues. A movie by Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelly, which is part of the Contemporaries Collection, is shown in another room.

I'm not that big on the impressionists. My favorite piece in the permanent collection was Van Gogh's Hospital at Saint-Rémy, done in the distinctive style he developed in the last couple years of his life with all the wavy brush strokes.

The Paul Thek exhibit was large and his art was mostly very strange. Much of it was wax models of decaying body parts. It wasn't for me. The Danica Dakic exhibit was an interesting film she made at some sort of a home near Sarajevo with people from the home playing parts. The Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelly movie was pretty strange, but interesting. I also liked their sculptural piece, White Snow Dwarf (Dopey #1). My favorite of the temporary exhibitions was the one by Linn Meyers. She painted a couple walls in the lobby with a large piece that's covered with a bunch of tiny, hand-painted lines. The visual effect from a distance was quite different than it was close up and I found it interesting. It's a shame that the piece is going to be painted over at the end of the show.

I went to Stefan's at L.A. Farm for dinner. The restaurant was mentioned in an article on Molecular Gastronomy I saw and it sounded interesting. The chef, Stefan Richter, is well-known from his appearance on Top Chef.

The restaurant offers five-, seven- and ten-course tasting menus. They don't offer any vegetarian options. They don't list the courses for any of the tasting menus. All you get is a rough description from your server. I opted for the ten-course tasting menu and asked for some vegetarian substitutions but I knew I was still going to get some meat. 

I didn't think I was going to get a printed menu (and didn't) so I kept notes on the courses using my new Android phone.  Well, when I went to look back at them the notes were gone.  For some reason, the app had thrown away everything I had entered.  My memory isn't good enough to remember all 10 courses without a menu or my notes.  I know I got a truffled asparagus soup, a scallop course, two fish courses, I think it was, mushroom ravioli, a salad, a lamb chop and a couple desserts. 

I liked the food although I would have preferred to be able to avoid the meat dishes.  The desserts were both very good.  The last one was a passion fruit lollipop made by freezing layers of different things with liquid nitrogen.  It's a good restaurant but it's not in the same league as some of the other restaurants I've visited on this trip.  They don't serve any amuse-busche.  You don't have any choice of bread.  They just bring you a basket of bread and some butter that's frozen solid at the start of the meal.  They have two rooms.  The other room might have been better but the room I sat in was near the bar and you could look over and see the TVs.

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