After running out of wall space, Diane Klein decided it was time for her growing collection of video art to have a real home. And that became a golden opportunity to replace the termite-ridden 1929 garage behind her Craftsman home in Venice Beach with a creative space and guest house.
Rather than build a stucco box of a projection room for Klein's collection — which includes pieces by young L.A.-based artists Ryan Trecartin, Wu Tsang and Petra Cortright, as well as foreign artists Ragnar Kjartansson and Christian Marclay — architect Daniel Monti of Modal Design conceived a more daring approach: a 1,060-square-foot art house wrapped in zinc shingles with a roof that dips and peaks.
Monti designed the roofline not just for effect but for a specific purpose. The roof pitches up to direct water onto the property, and it pitches down to allow for light and air, Monti says. It also echoes the pitched roof of Klein's home, harmonizing the architectural styles.
Klein's jewel box now stands sentry over a walk street, facing a public parking lot, adjacent to Venice's Social Public Art Resource Center.
"The alley is a harsh environment," Monti says, "which is why I covered that side up and placed all the windows facing inward." Three colors of zinc shingles cover every inch of the alley-facing side. On the other side, large windows shaped like a mountain range open to the main house. A small native plant garden is enclosed on the remaining sides by foliage from the neighbors' trees.
Monti replaced the fire pit that sat outside the main house with a planter and orange cushions that face the garden and the new art space, creating a cozy valley. Klein, an entertainment executive, can sit on the cushions with a glass of wine and enjoy the projections emanating from the studio.
At the studio door, three monitors play Klein's video art du jour.
A staircase on the left subtly widens as it leads to the main room. "I opened it up to make you feel that the room expands as you come up," Three colors of zinc shingles cover every inch of the alley-facing side Monti says. At the top of the landing, "50 Proof," a visceral installation dealing with racial identity by Alison Saar as well as pieces by Mark Bradford and Leo Gabin signal the studio's creative purpose.
Oak floors, fiberboard walls and the pitched ceiling punctuated with pin lights are all painted white, giving the space an airy feeling despite its small size. Ideally, Monti says, Klein could project onto any surface, from walls to the ceiling.
Only a wood-colored console stands in contrast to all the white. The custom furniture's geometry follows the shape of the windows directly behind it, unifying the piece and the space. The console gives Klein additional shelf space for books on James Turrell, Andy Warhol and Lynn Foulkes, and for a projector and other gadgets.
But this clean, almost empty space is more than it seems. Monti hid a Murphy bed, storage space, closets and speakers. "The question we dealt with was how can everything be here but not be here at the same time?" Monti says. "So we hid everything as much as possible."
"Daniel has something I look for when I'm looking at artwork," Klein says. "That's the ability to take what thousands of architects do in Los Angeles — those modern houses — and do something new with it, make it look fresh. That appealed to me. A lot."
And to her family and friends, it seems. Klein has hosted dinner parties in the studio, projecting videos that in the usual gallery might test a visitor's patience. Guests staying for a night or two have also become more common. "The good thing and the bad thing is that everyone loves staying here," she says.
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