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Photography

January 2010

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010 Perfect California

Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica

Maybe he is California's Norman Rockwell, but the once-renowned but now somewhat forgotten and unfortunately named artist, the late Millard Sheets, was the California School in the arts all of it. He was a painter the driving force behind the California Style watercolor movement, and later the architect of more than fifty branch banks in Southern California, all of which feature his amazing murals, or his sculptures, or both. He did it all an architect, illustrator, muralist, printmaker, and he juried art exhibitions, and in 1954 he was appointed Director of Otis Art Institute. He was a big.

Back in the thirties he was one of fifteen artists chosen nationally to paint murals in the Department of the Interior in Washington, and served on the executive committee of the Public Works Arts Project, the first New Deal art project. And many decades later, in 1952, he met Howard Ahmanson, the somewhat eccentric multi-millionaire, who had seen a photograph of one of Sheets' buildings and wrote him asking him to call if he were interested in designing a couple of buildings on Wilshire Boulevard for him. Sheets called him. And beginning in 1952, Sheets designed mosaics for the offices of Ahmanson's Home Savings of America throughout California, and he designed most of the buildings too.

And this is the one at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica the former Home Savings of America building and mural by Sheets. It's the perfect California, circa 1952. Now it's a cell phone store. Home Savings of America was absorbed by Washington Mutual long ago, and in September 2008, Washington Mutual went under the largest bank failure in United States history. But there's still the Perfect California.

Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica
Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica

From an interview with Millard Sheets:

    I did a building in Santa Monica [2600 Wilshire Boulevard] which is a fairly good-sized building. 1 had a front elevation that was turned exactly at a 45-degree angle to the corner, then two wings that came forward. They didn't go straight across, like many of our 45-degree corner buildings have done. I'm not objecting to that at all. But instead of doing, as I generally do, smaller, vignetted mosaics in the middle of perhaps a dark-colored granite or something, I did a whole panel. It's one of the biggest ones we've done. We actually used the same plans twice. We used it in Anaheim as well as in Santa Monica, though we had totally different themes in the mosaic in Santa Monica than in the one in Anaheim.

    I would never do it again. It's too much mosaic. It's too much in a rectangle. It's like an over-sized painting. I wince every time I go by it. Now, people like the mosaic, and I don't think it's one of the greatest, but it's a satisfactory mosaic. Certainly I designed it - so I haven't anybody to blame but myself.  But I would never do that again, because I think it's far too separate from the building, and it should never be separate. It should be an integral part.

Oops.

Millard Sheets mosaic mural at the former Home Savings of America building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica

If you wish to use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me. And should you choose to download any of these images and use them invoking the "fair use" provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, please provide credit, and, on the web, a link back to this site.

Technical Note:

These photographs were taken with a Nikon D200 the lenses used were AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or AF Nikkor 70-300 mm telephoto.  The high-resolution photography here was modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0 software.

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All text and photos unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik 

[January 2010] [Day One] [Dark Messages] [Perfect Day] [A Strange Place] [God and Hollywood] [Corner Light] [Play Acting] [Coastal Fog] [Winter Birds] [At Random] [The Birthday] [Notice of Filming] [Odder Details] [January Garden] [At the Far End] [Perfect California] [California Family] [The Local Saint] [The Kosher News] [Balloon Day] [Hollywood Hello] [At Heliotrope] [Before the Rain] [That's Odd] [Between Storms] [Color Studies] [Rain World] [Beach Poetry] [Cultural Mix] [Hollywood Weeps] [Back to the Sun] [Local Nightmare] [Cultural Debris] [Inherently Corrupt] [Sun Fountain] [Clouds Departing] [Selling High] [Hollywood Tease] [Hollywood High] [The Race Question] [The Clouds] [Winter Magnolia] [Shy Blooms]