Outside, a 5,000-pound, fourty-foot-long metal sculpture by Kelly dominates the façade. Defiant under the glare of the Southern Californian sun, the piece draws heavily from earlier artworks made in other climates: Study for Black and White Panels, a 1954 collage made in Paris, and Black Over White, which Kelly painted in New York City in 1966. The artist and the architect collaborated on the installation, suspending the artwork ten inches from the face of the stucco exterior to form either an erstaz entablature or a kind of censored signage. "One afternoon I was standing outside the gallery and an old woman passing by looked up at the Kelly and wondered what the sign would say," recalls Zellner. "The building is either camouflaged or uncanny."
And indeed, the gallery does seem posed between the two terms: camouflaged, as in blending into the commercial vernacular along Santa Monica Boulevard, and uncanny, broadcasting a disquieting muteness. Understanding this oscillation requires a bit of backstory on Zellner's design. The addition of the sculpture came late in the process as the architect and the gallerist worked closely with the John Chase, the visionary planner for City of West Hollywood who passed away in 2011. The trio were in the midst of convincing the city that that there is an argument to be made for minimalism for art-use spaces, and Kelly's artwork solidified their stance, transforming the whole building into a piece of public art.
Yet Zellner isn't content with simply quotidian references; a Southern California native, his architectural vocabulary is built on a history of reductive design: white-walled missions and Irving Gill's early 20th Century abstractions of them. Or Frank Gehry's first projects such as the Danziger Studio (1965) and Gemini Studio Building (1976) that push the blank stucco facades out of the realm of mid-century modernism and into a taut minimalism. "There is absolutely a local language," he explains with authority.
The gallery does seem posed between the two terms: camouflaged, as in blending into the commercial vernacular along Santa Monica Boulevard, and uncanny, broadcasting a disquieting muteness