If Andy Warhol's visions of Campbell's soup cans blurred the line between commercial and fine art, the latest trend in collecting erases that line completely. Instead of rendering a product into an important (and costly) canvas, as Warhol did, art lovers are flipping the formula, seeking out the original drawings and paintings that were mass-produced as midcentury product illustrations.
A new generation of homeowners has embraced the iconic power of architectural renderings. The artist's-proof serigraphs of 1960s illustrator Carlos Diniz at Silver Lake's Ten 10 Gallery, (323) 663-3603, are pure design, reducing buildings and furniture to clean geometry and foliage to fanciful filigrees, the perfect partners for Asian or Danish decor.
Similarly, gouache-on-paper designs for fabrics, such as those done in the mid-20th century by Arthur Litt and handsomely framed by Double Vision in Venice, (310) 314-2679, have the boldness of Latin American abstract art at a fraction of the price.
Regular visitors to the Modernism exhibitions in Glendale, Santa Monica and Palm Springs seek out Streamline Illustrations, (530) 432-5831, for Buck Rogers-styled concept car portraits suitable for 21st century bachelor pads.
Looking for something narrative? Nothing is quite as satisfying as Streamline's noir-ish paintings for pulp paperbacks, visions that hark back to a Los Angeles of square-jawed Joes and juke-joint Jezebels. Once derided as lurid, these accomplished if exaggerated figure studies bristle with pure pigments and impure, unbridled passions. Some even have a small degree of provenance, marked with printer's specs or accompanied by a copy of the dime novel they illustrated.
At Breen & Graham, (323) 663-3426, there are works with a true Hollywood heritage. As epic as any Italian canvas, John DeCuir's scenic designs for the 1963 film "Cleopatra" won the art director an Academy Award.