Modernism Week – Retro-a-Rama at M Modern


In conjunction with Palm Springs Modernism Week, M Modern Gallery presents a group art exhibition. Last year’s “The Contemporary Idol” had a tiki theme, while this year’s “Retro-a-rama” skewed more mid-century modern.


Some submissions, like “Episode 9” by Glenn Barr (above) and “One Eleven” by Chris Reccardi (first image), went for a futuristic style that I was digging. Other featured artists for this show included Tim Biskup, Lynne Naylor, Bosko and, my personal favorite, Shag.


I was also pleased to find two paper sculptures from Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, who create awesome art and collectibles for Disney (recently the 50th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room). It’s fitting that they would find inspiration in Tomorrowland and its Utopian vision of the future from a mid-century perspective. I loved the sweeping lines in “Goodyear ’67” — named after the company that sponsored the PeopleMover.


It took me a second to realize the setting for Shag’s painting “The Refill” was the Kaufmann House, a Palm Springs local landmark designed by Neutra we’d seen last year on the Modernism Week architecture bus tour.


The M Modern owners also operate Shag: The Store and have worked with Josh Agle for years, so they often have rare items you won’t find too many other places, like “Shag Map of the World.”


“Drawn by memory from the artist Shag, based upon his travels of Planet Earth,” it amusingly matches signature cocktails to their cities and countries…Mai Tai to the Bay Area (for Trader Vic’s), Blue Hawaiian for Hawaii and so on. Shag’s web site has a larger, detailed version.


It was originally made for the “Shag: Outbound with the In-Crowd” show last November at the Outré Galleries in Australia. The remaining framed prints are only available Down Under, but M Modern has an edition of 10 giclées on stretched canvas priced at $4,000 each. (If only I could stretch my pocketbook that far.)


Well, that’s a wrap for our “Palm Springs Weekend” — hopefully we’ll be able to come back next year for some more fun in the sun and mid-century modern merriment.

Related Posts:
Other Tiki Things in Palm Springs
Modernism Week 2013 – Pan Am Exhibit
Modernism Week 2013 – Tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates

Palm Springs Modernism Week – “Welcome Aboard – The Pan Am Experience”


The tour of the Royal Hawaiian Estates was the main draw for me for this year’s Palm Springs Modernism Week, but there were a few other interesting things we were able to check out during our quick trip.


I was glad there was an event that gave us an excuse to see the rainbow spectacle that is The Saguaro. One of the ballrooms at the hotel was hosting an exhibition entitled “Welcome Aboard –– The Pan Am Experience.”


These days it’s hard to imagine air travel as anything but a hassle, but Pan American World Airways aspired to make it exciting and glamorous, as emphasized by this photo of Marilyn Monroe climbing aboard one of their planes.


Pan American Airways started in 1927 as an airmail service from Key West to Cuba and was America’s largest international airline, reaching its zenith in the Jet Age of the 1950s and ‘60s. According to the exhibit’s information: “Pan Am introduced the Boeing 747 creating the favorite airline of the rich and famous and was renowned for its stylish stewardesses, first-class amenities, including the first sleeper seats, fine dining and Clipper cocktails.”


The airline ceased operations in 1991 when I was still pretty young, so I don’t remember any personal experiences with it. Aside from the short-lived TV show in 2012, I’m probably most familiar with Pan Am from those blue and white bags with the iconic logo. They’re still so covetable that reproductions of those retro styles are still sold today.


The exhibit was all from the personal collection of actor Phillip P. Keene (“The Closer,” “Major Crimes,”) who has been amassing Pan Am memorabilia for 20 years. A wide variety of items were on display, including travel posters, uniforms, wing pins, toys, books (even a cookbook) and ephemera like matchbooks.


I was particularly amused by these lighters shaped like the Pan Am Building. This New York skyscraper opened in 1963 and was the headquarters for the airline. It was sold in 1981 and is now known as the MetLife Building.


We spent quite a bit of time browsing through the binder full of vintage travel brochures. Some had wonderful, over-the-top poetic descriptions like: “From the mists of Time, from the illimitable blue vastness of the Pacific, came the Polynesians. Searching for new homes eastward beyond the wide ocean, guiding their frail craft by the glittering pinpricks in the heavens, they came at last to Hawaii.”


I loved the juxtaposition here of the tattooed Maori native having his picture taken by the buttoned-up tourists, who look like Don and Betty Draper on vacation in New Zealand. Another brochure tempted travelers with this text: “A thrilling excursion into the primitive past, the ancient ceremonies of the Maoris, their little villages with beautifully carved meeting houses, are easily within reach through the magic of the Flying Clipper.”


Meanwhile, this Bermuda brochure (false advertising, much?) looked like something we would have seen at the “Mid-Century Mermaids: A History” presentation by Vintage Roadside at least year’s Modernism Week.


The collector himself was on hand during our visit. He was guiding around a few former Pan Am flight attendants that I believe were Scandinavian. It must have been an interesting sort of trip down memory lane for them…

Related Posts:
Modernism Week 2013 – Tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates
Modernism Week 2012 – Mid-Century Mermaids Lecture
Modernism Week 2012 – Architecture Bus Tour

Modernism Week Tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates – Palm Springs


We had a great time last year at Palm Springs Modernism Week, but I was even more compelled to come back this year when I found out there would be a tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates, a 1960s condominium community that merged mid-century modern architecture with a Polynesian theme. It’s mentioned in Sven Kirsten’s book Tiki Modern, but I really took notice of it after seeing Bosko’s painting at The Book of Tiki 10th anniversary art show.


Borrowing its name from the famous Honolulu hotel, Royal Hawaiian Estates was initially intended as a Jewish retirement community. It was designed by the architectural firm of Richard Harrison and Donald Wexler (the latter made a special guest appearance the day of the tour). The five-acre complex is made up of 12 buildings, divided into 40 units, surrounding two pools where Moai bask in the desert sunshine.


After checking in at the front, we were given a map with self-guided tour information that highlighted unique architectural elements like the “tiki apex,” the orange flourish at the end of the center beam, and the parallel lines that flank it. These were once all over the property, but as they deteriorated in the 1990s they were removed rather than replaced.


In 2010, the Royal Hawaiian Estates HOA used grants from the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation to commission a new tiki apex prototype from o2 Architecture, who designed one with low-maintenance sheet metal instead of wood. Several of these have already been put in place, and our tour fees raised enough funds to restore the remaining 30 that are missing.


Another signature are the “Flying 7s,” these triangular buttresses supporting the patio roofs. They’re said to have been inspired by the lateral supports on an outrigger canoe.


Several homeowners graciously opened their doors to us so we could also appreciate the interior designs, with their vaulted ceilings, clerestory windows, exposed beams and open layouts.


Some units have been remodeled over the years, but others like this one here still had many original 1960 features, like terrazo floors and this shoji screen divider between the kitchen and living room.


It was also interesting to see how each owner put their own personal stamp on their home, whether it was through collections of vintage barware, Heywood-Wakefield furniture or tiki mugs. (Not surprising as liking tiki often goes along with having an interest in things mid-century.)


One of the units was literally a time capsule. Even though new owners had recently purchased it, they had kept nearly all the original furnishings, including the lush shag carpet, vinyl couches and vintage artwork.


We were really blown away by all the different outrageously patterned wallpapers, which were still in surprisingly good condition. My favorite was the green bamboo in the guest bedroom — it’s a difficult thing to pull off, but I think they did.

Admiration for Royal Hawaiian Estates was apparent in many of the owners we talked to, particularly this other couple who had on their wall an enlarged version of the original marketing brochure from 1961 (as seen in Tiki Modern.)

I took many more photos than I could include here, so head over to Flickr if you’d like to see more. To really get in the mid-century mood, listen to the playlists on the Royal Hawaiian Estates web site, inspired by the music that used to be played at the pool area 24 hours a day.

Related Posts:
Modernism Week 2012 – Mid-Century Mermaids Lecture
Modernism Week 2012 – Architecture Bus Tour
Modernism Week 2012 – Vintage Airstream Trailers