Final two days for ‘Bright White Underground’ at Schindler’s Buck House

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It’s not quite a haunted house. But ‘Bright White Underground,’ a mind-bending transformation of Rudolph Schindler’s Buck House, is close enough to warrant a visit this Halloween weekend.

Under the auspices of Country Club, a Cincinnati gallery that operates the 1934 house as its L.A. satellite, artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe have turned its spare modernist interiors into a remarkably persuasive ruin. The installation asks visitors to believe that the architectural landmark once operated as a kind of safe house where experiments on the effects of psychedelic drugs -- not to mention some hazy parties -- took place. They’ve even made up an elaborate back story with a fictitious Timothy Leary-like protagonist, Dr. Arthur Cook, and something called the Vortice Institute.

That storyline is full of rich themes connected to hallucinogenics, secrecy and the period when LSD began to move from government-controlled labs to the center of the American counterculture -- and from the world of science to the world of art, if you will. Freeman and Lowe went to great lengths to create and maintain the illusion, building inside the Buck House a finely detailed stage set of secrecy overlaid with a thick patina of decay. Every room shows evidence of well-hidden goings-on. But it’s evidence that is crumbling, mold-covered or caked in dust.

As layered as the Dr. Cook storyline turns out to be, the wrecked-looking house is equally powerful as a statement about the way that modern architecture -- and more broadly the philosophy of modernism -- has aged over the years in Los Angeles. More than anything, the installation gives you the impression that you’ve stumbled upon signs that an experiment happened here and has been abandoned. And that’s pretty much exactly what I find myself thinking on those days when I’m feeling most pessimistic about the current state of progressive architecture in Los Angeles: An experiment happened here and has been abandoned.

Anybody interested in seeing the installation should hurry over to the Buck House: Saturday is the last day it’ll be open to the public. (After that the gallery faces the daunting task of returning the Buck House to its rather spare natural state.) More information is here. And more photographs of ‘Bright White Underground’ are after the jump.


--Christopher Hawthorne

Photographs of ‘Bright White Underground,’ an installation by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, courtesy Country Club gallery.