A masonic temple in Los Angeles is enjoying a second wind in the guise of an art installation. The Scottish Rite free masons who once held grand operas and theatre productions in the 2000 capacity building sold the temple to Guess Jeans co-founders Paul and Maurice Marciano back in 2013. The newly owning art foundation originally planned to cover the entire interior with white furnishings, however once gutted and the architecture was exposed, they decided to to keep everything bare. They hired artist and architect Kulapat Yantrasast to do the formal design work, and making use of the original trusses and joists was a bit of a gamble.
Some of the peculiar items left behind by the free masons have been used in the modern artistic exhibition. Artist Jim Shaw has created a piece called wig shop in which he recycles a theatrical backdrop of falling bodies on fire as part of his work. He's added his own images of painted superheroes, supermarkets, and supernatural creatures.
Shaw found some old wigs lying around, in the basement of the disused temple, and he's placed them on simple mannequins which stand under a garish wig shop neon sign. He's added a few he made himself to complete the collection of headpieces. It sounds to me like there's an element of surrealism at hand plus the freemasonry combined with his own works perhaps lends him a bit of mythological favour.
Curator to the exhibition, Philipp Kaiser, invited the display artists to take their pick of the unusual archival objects that were lingering in the old property. Likening the accumulation of ideas and props to a frenzy, Shaw responded by saying “magic thinking is manic thinking” (artnews). Jim Shaw is yet to have exhibited any works in L.A. And to this scale of event so it seems to be a lucky find for him.
The Marciano brothers are hoping, as they did when they bought the property, that the art space will evolve into a culturally important and well received venue in the California scene. Quirky monumental designs such as the masonic temple, designed by eccentric artist Millard Sheets, make excellent alternatives to the strange and far reaching futuristic designs often chosen by big name art people.
As a collection of modern art, the themes are varied and mainly inspired by the feel of the building. Masons used art to communicate ideas as many people were illiterate during their history, masons would include useful information in pictographs so that the everyday person could understand the models. This theme is continuing in this large and gutsy collection of modern art that occupies all floors in this obscure and fascinating building.