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THE ART ISSUE

Work, Rest. Work, Stop.

When where you toil helps how you create, then achieving the ideal space is a dream come true. Michael Webb drops in on four artists with great digs.

June 11, 2006|Michael Webb | Michael Webb is the author, most recently, of "Art/Invention/House." He is also a contributing writer for Architectural Digest.

Peter Alexander

Having a magnificent workspace doesn't guarantee that the art will be great, but it sure doesn't hurt. Peter Alexander moved from a horse barn behind a Victorian house in West Adams to a Venice garage, where he cleaned up the grease pit and converted it into a lap pool. He now has an expansive metal shed in Santa Monica in which to read, sleep, think and--when the spirit moves him--get to work.

Alexander, who studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania under Louis Kahn and had a summer job with Richard Neutra before switching to art, still knows how to build. He describes his prefabricated studio as "a very straightforward box with a pair of skylights in each bay. I wanted light that made me feel good and, by a fluke, it worked." He added roll-up garage doors at both ends to open the interior to the outdoors as well as to facilitate loading materials and artwork. "They were also inspired by memories of listening to 'The Green Hornet' and his faithful companion, Kato, on Saturday mornings," he admits. "Those programs always started with the sound of a door opening."

Within, his office area is separated from the workspace by a free-standing structure of boldly grained plywood, containing storage and a sleeping gallery. "I've never been happier in a space than I have in this--I feel it every morning when I walk in," says Alexander.

On View: Peter Alexander's paintings will be exhibited by Craig Krull, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, Sept. 9 to Oct. 14.

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Francesca Gabbiani

When Francesca Gabbiani graduated from UCLA in 1997, she decided to share a big loft in Vernon with friends, but she often found herself working alone in an unwelcoming neighborhood. One night her car was stolen, prompting a move to the relative safety of Echo Park, where she made her artwork in a dark garage. "I had to wrap myself in blankets in winter and you could fry an egg on the wall in summer," she recalls. "Once, when I opened the door to get some air, there was a drive-by shooting."

She now lives in Silver Lake with husband Eddie Ruscha (whose father is the famous Ed) and 2-year-old son Milo, and works in a new studio, designed by Kevin Daly of Daly Genick Architects, at the top of the slope behind their house.

Clad with corrugated metal, the little silvery box with a projecting canopy is lighted by a lofty lantern screened by metal louvers. Windows open up to the views on the north side, and there are large unbroken walls on which Gabbiani can project and trace images used in creating her collages (her work is in MOCA's permanent collection). The small office and bathroom mean she can spend entire days in her studio, running downhill to the house when summoned by the speaker hooked up to her son's bedroom.

"All I wanted was a space that was large enough to let you choose what to do. I feel as comfortable here as I do in my house. I can come up here whenever I want, keep the work flowing and meet pressing deadlines. It's a quiet, safe place except when a black widow drops in."

On View: Francesca Gabbiani's collages will be part of the group show "Wall Rockets: Contemporary Artists and Ed Ruscha," FLAG Collection, in New York in May.

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Roger Herman

Twenty-five years ago, Roger Herman moved out of his industrial loft in downtown L.A. and commissioned a frugal house-studio from architect Frederick Fisher, who was responsible for the LA Louver Gallery, the Eli Broad Family Foundation in Santa Monica and other art spaces. "When I first got the house, I was intimidated and worked in the garage, but now the ground-floor studio feels very used and messed up with paint spills," Herman says.

As time passed, he needed more storage and an uncluttered space to display his large canvases and painted ceramics. His wife, photographer Eika Aoshima, wanted an office, so the couple asked Fisher to design a detached studio they could share. Using an adjoining lot, the architect created a two-story metal-clad tower that complements their raw plywood house. Both present a nearly blank face to the street, but open up to Elysian Park in back.

"We wanted to create a serene and hermetic volume with few windows and ethereal light," Fisher says. Herman insisted on a narrow horizontal window at the front to frame the panoramic view from the upstairs office, which doubles as a guest bedroom. Sunlight filters down from roof openings to the white studio below, where walls of glass and a massive glass slider draw in more light. Herman plans to use the studio as a peaceful, more secluded retreat in which to make his woodcuts, though he can also relax in the concrete pool or gaze over the fence to the park. "I don't feel like leaving--it's too perfect, and everyone who visits wants to move in," he says.

On View: Roger Herman's ceramics are showing at Flux Gallery, 943 N. Hill St., Los Angeles, through July 2.

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Joe Goode

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