Mexico City

Lake Verea, Paparazzas en acción, 2013, C-print, 32 5⁄8 × 37 3⁄4".

Lake Verea, Paparazzas en acción, 2013, C-print, 32 5⁄8 × 37 3⁄4".

Lake Verea

Lake Verea, Paparazzas en acción, 2013, C-print, 32 5⁄8 × 37 3⁄4".

Conceived as a long-term inquiry into some of the most highly regarded housing projects in the history of modern architecture, “Paparazza Moderna” is an ongoing photographic archive initiated in 2011 by Lake Verea, an entity composed of the artists Francisca Rivero-Lake Cortina and Carla Verea Hernández. This exhibition, “Paparazza Moderna. Chapter II: Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler in California,” focused on images of five houses built in California in the 1930s by the Austrian-born architects Richard J. Neutra and Rudolf M. Schindler.

Lake Verea produced the photographs—displayed here in neatly arranged groupings of four to nine framed C-prints of modest size—by furtively shooting the houses from the outside without giving any notice to their current owners, much less asking their permission. By equating their photographic practice to that of a paparazza—a female paparazzo, an unexpected presence who lurks in the shadows—Lake Verea made images that differ significantly from the ones usually found in glossy coffee-table books. The houses have not been gussied up for these images nor subjected to image-enhancing postproduction processes. For example, in The Selmer N. Westby House. R.M. Schindler, Silverlake, Los Angeles, 1938, 2011–17, the facade, seen in partial views, shows signs of aging, even neglect: A distinct crack wrinkles a white concrete wall from top to bottom, a result, perhaps, of the city’s seismic activity; dirt smudges the formerly immaculate surfaces.

While the photographic groupings conveyed a sense of thwarted voyeurism—the artist’s camera constantly aims at the windows, but the interiors remain concealed by blinds—one could also detect a fascination with the houses themselves. Small details, such as a metallic handrail surrounded by plants and a flowerpot (The Darling House. Richard J. Neutra, San Francisco, 1937), the geometric rhythm created by delicately thin handrails and branches full of leaves (The Kahn House. Richard J. Neutra, Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, 1939–40), the close-up of a serrated wall (Elliot House. R.M. Schindler, Silverlake, Los Angeles 1931), and the shadow of a couple of oranges hanging from a tree branch reflected on a wooden door (The Guy C. Wilson House. R.M. Schindler, Silverlake, Los Angeles, 1939), all 2011–17, revealed an admiration for both the architects and the lives their creations have taken on with time, an attachment that goes beyond the intellectual.

In a celebrated essay from 2011, “Fans of Feminism: Re-writing Histories of Second-wave Feminism in Contemporary Art,” the art historian Catherine Grant associated similar kinds of excessive engagement with the figure of the fan—that is, someone driven by seemingly innocent love whose desire is in fact embarrassing and obsessive. The paparazza conjured by Lake Verea is essentially a modernism fan, albeit a disobedient one, who appropriates her subject of desire and through doing so challenges the idea of the timeless flawlessness of the masterpieces of the (male) architects.

The longest wall of the gallery space presented three independent works that were interrelated: The Guy C. Wilson House. R.M. Schindler, Silverlake, Los Angeles, 1939; Paparazzas en acción, 2013; and Herramientas de trabajo (Working Tools), 2017. The first one was a grouping of five photographs of the structure named in its title, the second was an in flagrante delicto shot of Lake Verea themselves photographing that very same house, and the third was a vitrine with a photo portraying some of the tools behind the archive: negatives, proof prints, pens, camera film, reflex cameras, light meters, magnifying glasses, and a map showing pinned locations. Rivero-Lake and Verea intend to erase any remaining trace of individual authorship, constantly exchanging their cameras in order to fuse their subject-hood. They seek to emphasize Lake Verea’s agency by displaying the many tools employed in the archive and showing “her” image-making presence. “Paparazza Moderna” was a love letter, penned by a perverse fan with a crush and written in all lowercase letters. Reading it, we got to experience modern architecture from an almost embarrassingly intimate viewpoint.