There is Only One Paul R. Williams: A Portrait by Janna Ireland

Opening Reception: Saturday, 9 December 2017, 6-9 pm
Sponsored by the Julius Shulman Institute
Curated by Andrea Dietz and Audrey Landreth
9 December, 2017 – 11 February, 2018

The Julius Shulman Institute at Woodbury University is pleased to present There is Only One Paul R. Williams: A Portrait by Janna Ireland. The exhibition of photographs by up-and-coming Los Angeles based photographer, Janna Ireland, takes a new look at the built legacy of the prolific yet under-appreciated African-American architect, Paul R. Williams (February 18, 1894 – January 23, 1980). In an intimate and powerful contemplation of a range of Williams’ southern California projects, Ireland’s images provide access to the narratives latent to the creations of a long overlooked genius.

Out of a deep interest in identity and how it can be defined by and reflected in space, Ireland ‘gets to know’ Williams who, unrecognized by many, significantly shaped the city and region of Los Angeles. Over a one-year process of thoughtfully exploring the signature design elements of both Williams’ private and public spaces, Ireland has sought out the personality of one of the 20th century’s great, but only recently acknowledged, placemakers. In the details of Williams’ intricate designs, she finds him – the man who, just this year, nearly four decades after his death, was honored with the award of the AIA Gold Medal.

In Janna Ireland’s portfolio, explorations of identity and race, domesticity and place, isolation and time are recurring themes. The nearly 3,000 buildings that Paul R. Williams designed in his five-decade career both mask and lend insight into his quiet and persistent brilliance. Together, Ireland and Williams are a poignant match, inspiring a layering of interpretations between a contemporary artist and a historical architect.

Janna Ireland’s photographs reveal Paul R. Williams’ inner world through the framings of a sensitive eye. By choosing to shoot in all black and white, Ireland directs, and unifies, the focus towards telling features of a smaller scale; her emotive canvases illuminate the lusciousness of Williams’ masterful designs. By emphasizing the curved lines and grand moldings that softened Williams’ modern floor plans, she foregrounds a distinct aesthetic voice behind the quintessential “California feel.”

Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894. Over the course of his architectural career, he designed nearly 2,000 homes. When he began his independent practice in the early 1920’s, he focused on affordable housing, but quickly scaled up to large estates for affluent and celebrity clients and to public buildings. Some of his more famous residential clients included Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Barron Hilton, and Frank Sinatra. His public buildings include The Palm Springs Tennis Center (1946) designed with A. Quincy Jones, a renovation of the Beverly Hills Hotel (1949), and the LAX Theme Building (1961) designed with William Pereira, Charles Luckman, and Welton Becket. Eight of Williams’ structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Williams worked fluidly within a range of styles, demonstrating excellence across and through historical and modern approaches. He was the first black architect to become a member of the AIA and, later, the first black member to be inducted into the Institute’s College of Fellows. Williams posthumously was awarded the AIA’s 2017 Gold Medal, the profession’s highest national honor made in recognition of individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

Janna Ireland was born in Philadelphia in 1985. She holds an MFA in Photography from UCLA and a BFA from the Department of Photography and Imaging at NYU. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, including two solo exhibitions at the Schneider Gallery in Chicago and the Tyler Wood Gallery in San Francisco. She was the 2013 recipient of the Snider Prize from the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago.

Framed exhibition works, as well as a limited run of photographic prints, are available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the Julius Shulman Institute at Woodbury University – making ongoing support for developing new talents in architectural photography possible.

Special thanks to sponsors:
Mary Blodgett and Carlton Calvin
Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow
REDWOOD Real Estate Brokerage, Inc.
Bestor Architecture

Image Courtesy:  Janna Ireland

Posted in 2018, Past

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