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New Matthew Marks Gallery Breaks WeHo's Design Rules

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Updated 1/26, 10:11 am The Matthew Marks Gallery recently finished reconstruction of its new space in a gritty corner of the east side of West Hollywood--the building is designed by Culver City-based Zellnerplus in collaboration with artist Ellsworth Kelly, the designer of the 40 foot long, eight foot high, 5,000 pound sculpture mounted to the façade of the building. The windowless cube required some political maneuvering around the city of West Hollywood's planning regulations, specifically urban design guidelines that require new buildings to have windows and architectural detail, according to Architectural Record. Zellner saved as much space in the interior as possible for art by nixing windows (skylights bring natural light to the room), but the collaboration with Kelly provided the design with the final minimalist flourish: Kelly had the idea to mount a new large sculpture (update: the previous version of this story reported that this sculpture was Sculpture for a Large Wall (1957)) to the façade of the building. The building then had to be reengineered to carry the weight of the sculpture. Zellner told Curbed today that although the building bears a resemblance to Kelly's Black Over White (1966), the building is not an homage to that collage (update: the pervious version of this story mischaracterized this work as a painting), nor does he think of the façade as being simply capped by "a black bar," as Kelly put it in the New York Times last year. Rather, "the sculpture works with the façade to complete the composition."

WeHo City Planner Michael Barney explained to Curbed today that the Matthew Marks Gallery had the work designated as public art, which helped it get around planning guidelines, and then paid an in-lieu arts fee to retain the rights to it (otherwise they'd belong to WeHo). Widespread support from the city council and residents, along with unanimous approval from the city's Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, also helped the project get approved. "The council and the citizens really understand the level of art that will come" from the gallery being there, said Barney. The building is one of the first projects in West Hollywood to be approved without onsite parking, which also reflects the support for the project in the community. Barney believes that the project will have a "huge impact" on the neighborhood, and predicted more big changes for the area soon.

The opening of the gallery is just one piece of what's shaping up to be an Ellsworth Kelly moment here in the Los Angeles area. The Matthew Marks Gallery is showing several Kelly pieces, including the aforementioned Black Over White and Study for Black and White Panels (1954). And LACMA is also currently showing a Kelly exhibit called Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings.
· That Gallery Facade Sure Looks Familiar [New York Times]
· No Shades of Gray [Architectural Record]
· Minimalist Ellsworth Kelly Makes Just a Tweak to WeHo Gallery [Curbed LA]