Welcome to Sheets Week, Curbed LA's five-day festival for artist and architectural designer Millard Sheets. Sheets was born in the Pomona Valley in 1907 and he made irreplaceable contributions to Southern California's art and architecture scenes over the next 80 years--as a young painter, he helped force the East Coast establishment to take Los Angeles art seriously; he was a major force in developing the Scripps College art department and in creating both Otis Art Institute and CalArts (the latter at Walt Disney's request); and he dotted SoCal with gilded, modern bank buildings that are now part of the landscape to any native (and a little surprising to most out-of-towners; apparently not all banks have elaborate mosaic murals). All Sheets Week we'll be learning about Millard and his life and work, and taking photo tours of some of his buildings, courtesy Curbed LA photographer Elizabeth Daniels. Let's start things off by revisiting our brief 2011 intro to Sheets and his Home Savings bank work:
Why do so many Los Angeles-area banks have amazing murals, mosaics, and sculptures? It's mostly the work of the Millard Sheets Studio, which starting in the fifties designed more than 100 Home Savings bank buildings and their accompanying artwork. Howard Ahmanson Sr. bought Home Savings and Loan in 1947 and the bank prospered by making home loans to SoCal residents during the mid-century boom, according to historian Adam Arenson's blog on the banks. Meanwhile, Sheets was an artist who became well-known in the thirties for his paintings. In 1952, according to the Daily News, Ahmanson wrote to Sheets: "Have traveled Wilshire Boulevard for twenty-five years. Know name of architect and year every building was built. Bored ... Need buildings designed ... I want buildings that will be exciting seventy-five years from now."
Ahmanson and Sheets's first bank collaboration was the Wilshire Home Savings in Beverly Hills (their first building together was the National American Insurance building on Wilshire, near Western, now the Ahmanson Center). Ahmanson gave Sheets plenty of latitude to create "banks clad in travertine and trimmed in gold, adorned with mosaic, murals and stained glass, and sculptures that lauded family life and the history of the Golden State." (Ahmanson loved them, according to a Smithsonian interview with Sheets.) Sheets designed 40 banks before Ahmanson died in 1968; he designed 80 afterward.
In 1998, Home Savings sold to Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008. Its banks were acquired by Chase.
· The art of Home Savings in San Fernando Valley mosaics, sculptures [LADN]
· The Art of Home Savings [The Cultural Civil War]