Louise Sandhaus Shakes Up L.A. Design History

Kaliflower 1970.jpg

As Frank Lloyd Wright once noted, “If you tilt the whole country sideways, Los Angeles is the place where everything loose will fall.” Designer and CalArts faculty member Louise Sandhaus has sorted through the rubble to better understand how the city formed its unique graphic design style. The findings of her ongoing project, “Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires, and Riots: California and Graphic Design,” are on view through July 13 at L.A.’s Municipal Art Gallery, reports Hugh Hart in his recent piece in the Los Angeles Times.

“Half-seriously, I began thinking in my crackpot imagination that graphic designers here [in L.A.] don’t stick to tradition because the ground isn’t firm enough,” Sandhaus told Hart of the idea she hatched five years ago for a book proposal. “These great shifts might be connected to disaster, but earthquakes, mudslides, fires, and civil uprisings also produce change.” Bolstering her case in the exhibition are posters, magazine ads, book covers, and fonts dating from 1935 to 1985 and infused with surf, sun, and the occasional controlled substance. Among them are hand-drawn covers for the free newspaper Kalifower, such as the one above from January 1970, which goes along with this week’s Bucky Fuller theme (the cover story notes that geodesic domes “are lately enjoying an unprecedented popularity for reasons of their essential usefulness”).

Meanwhile, Hart adds a bit about the show that didn’t make it into print, telling us that “one of the categories for [Sandhaus’s] concept is ‘Sun-Baked Modernism’—exemplified by the uber-elegant book cover designer Alvin Lustig.” As if you needed another reason to look forward to Steven Heller‘s imminent book about him.