He's also very pleased when the buildings' owners seem to want to pay homage to a loved one. He flips to a wall of fake wood siding with "Shari Romaine" in block letters nailed to it.
"I know this is probably on Romaine Street, but I like to think there's a woman named Shari Romaine." Across the page is a dingbat that calls itself the Monica Palms. "And she's friends with Monica Palms."
After one peruses "Pretty Vacant" for a while, Piercy's dingbat infatuation can become infectious. On their tabula rasa facades, the smallest ornamentations seem to amount to colossal statements. You begin scanning the white stucco for glitches in the matrix, and every one seems a discovery -- a yellow plaster diamond! An oversize address sign!
Look closer, and Los Angeles' postwar history and its waves of immigration seem to make themselves felt. Asia and the Pacific pop up in tiki-pattern screens and muted pagoda archways; Eastern Europe, in the utilitarian blocks and raw metal window frames; even, Piercy will tell you, cheap horror movies and doo-wop Cadillacs, in the occasional oversize dingbat light fixture crawling up a wall or a chrome racing stripe stretching across it. Your imagination? His? Perhaps. But then, what drives L.A. but imagination?
Indeed, the dingbat might take as much inspiration from B-movie sets and the dreams of the highway as it does from Le Corbusier, Piercy admits. He sums up his love of such things: "You can like a Pinto as much as you like a Ferrari."
James Verini can be contacted at email@example.com.
Pretty Vacant: The Los Angeles Dingbat Observed
Photographer: Clive Piercy
Publisher: Chronicle Books, $24.95
Info: Available at art and independent bookstores or at www.chroniclebooks.com