The Third Annual Modernism Weekend Was the Most!
By Dean Glass
September 17 and 18 saw SOHO's Third Annual San Diego Modernism Weekend headquartered at the 1961 former Abbey Rents building on El Cajon Boulevard, which was designed by Tucker Sadler & Bennett, a local architecture firm still in business since the 1950s. We knew the location was the perfect venue for our Modernism event when we discovered the owner's name was Tod Swank The long, narrow showroom in the front was ideal for the SOHO Museum Shop, the Hampton Collection Post-War Art Exhibition, and registration, along with a seating area for visitors with period furnishings donated for the event and set up by Jeff Spence of Mid-Century and Sergio and Martha Innocenzi of Antiques & Stuff .
The SOHO Museum Shop, which can regularly be found at 2476 San Diego Avenue in Old Town, carries a wide assortment of Modernism books and collectibles, which were moved temporarily to the weekend location. The cash register was ably manned by Mary Jones, who had a busy time selling a large collection of books with subjects as diverse as Herman Miller, Charles Phoenix's explorations of Kodachrome photography in mid-century America: Southern Californialand and Southern California in the '50s, a coffee table book all about coffee tables: The Coffee Table Coffee Table Book; futuristic toys and games such as Space Elevator, Space Robots, the Steel Builder erector set; retro Barbie magnets; kitchen towels featuring anthropomorphized cabbages and coffee pots; and a profusion of other Modernism-related books and items.
For the first time, an exhibition of visual art was added to the Modernism Weekend program with the Hampton Collection: Modernism in San Diego Post-War Art. Eighty-seven pieces from the collection of Dave Hampton, a San Diego native who has been collecting mid-century art for eight years, were on display, featuring curios by local mid-century artists such as Sheldon Kirby, Wayne Chapman, Russell Baldwin, and Marg Loring. The pieces, which ranged in flavor from the beautiful to the bizarre, illustrated the diverse talents of San Diego's mid-century artistic community. One piece in particular caught the eye of SOHO Board Member Christopher Pro: Second Hand Ed by Althea Cochrane (Brimm). For this collage, Mrs. Brimm used a reproduction of an issue of the San Diego Herald from 1852 detailing the capture of the notorious outlaw Yankee Jim Robinson. This same Yankee Jim has long been a part of the folklore surrounding the Whaley House, the Old Town house museum operated by SOHO. Special thanks to SOHO member Carolyn Kutzke for providing the gallery pedestals.
Registration, will call, and volunteer check-in were manned by Autumn Acker, Dimitri Callian, Alana Coons, Dean Glass, Sandé Lollis, Jessica McGee, Maureen McLellan, and Beth Montes. The crew of forty volunteer docents arrived to pick up their nametags and SOHO Modernism Mugs before going to their assigned houses for Sunday's Home Tour.
The warehouse behind the showroom was the perfect place for the Saturday lectures. First up, Dave Hampton moderated the Modern Art Forum, "a discussion of San Diego's dynamic art scene during the 1950s and 1960s." The two special guest artists were Joe Nyiri, a San Diegan since 1962 who is best known for his wrought and forged construction techniques with found objects, and Richard Allen Morris, a local since 1956 who has received major awards in exhibitions at the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Art Center in La Jolla, and the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. After the forum, guests of the exhibition were able to socialize with the artists, who each had some of their work exhibited.
SOHO Modernism Committee member Todd Pitman gave an hour long lecture called "Lloyd Ruocco: Architecture, Garden Villas & Supercities." With over five years of independent research on the work of Ruocco under his belt, Todd's expansive knowledge of all things Ruocco made him the ideal lecturer on the subject, and his lecture received glowing reviews by the attendees.
The final offering in the lecture series was the Modern Masters Forum. Keith York, who is not only a member of the Modernism Committee, but also maintains SOHO's database of mid-century architecture, moderated this slideshow presentation and engaging conversation with mid-century architects Loch Crane, Leonard Veitzer FAIA, and Eugene Weston, III.
Keith York and girlfriend Jessica Hanson very graciously opened up the Bobertz Residence, York's 1955 Craig Ellwood-designed home, for the Saturday evening Cocktail Party. Christopher Pro and Modernism Committee Chairman Bill Lawrence tended bar all evening, serving up vodka martinis with a twist, while the buffet was a wide array of delectable meats and cheeses, shrimp, South African peppers that were handstuffed with goat cheese by the Modernism committee party prep crew, chocolates, and much more. Nobody left hungry, and everybody agreed the bash was a smash.
Publicity such as the featured article in the previous Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune brought more than 150 people to the venue to purchase tickets for the Sunday Historic Home Tour, which added to the 350 who had pre-registered. Shuttling over 500 people around Mt. Helix proved challenging for our shuttle drivers Bill Lawrence, Sandé Lollis and Christopher Pro; SOHO President Beth Montes and registration volunteer Dimitri Callian were pressed into service to help out. They performed admirably under pressure and aside from a few complainers, the majority of participants were thrilled with the opportunity to view five mid-century architectural masterpieces and many marveled at how well SOHO had organized the event. The homes featured were three Lloyd Ruocco houses and a Ronald K. Davis house in Mt. Helix and a Henry Hester house in the College area. Special thanks go to homeowners Vincent Ursillo and Jeffrey Kleeve, Edie Smith, Margaret and Vincent O'Hara, Todd Pitman and Carmen Pauli, and Lynn Schwartz and Neil Greenstein who opened their amazing homes for the tour.
SOHO's Third Annual San Diego Modernism Weekend was the most successful yet, far exceeding the expected number of participants. As exposure to and appreciation of Modern architecture grows, so too will our Modernism events grow. Thanks go to SOHO's Modernism Committee, volunteers, homeowners, and everyone else who made the Modernism Weekend a resounding success!
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