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L.A. Modernism Show to celebrate Paul Tuttle

Paul Tuttle Thorton Ladd House

If you hit the Los Angeles Modernism Show this weekend in Santa Monica, remember the name Paul Tuttle (1918-2002). In the annals of Los Angeles midcentury modernism, Tuttle may not loom nearly as large as Charles Eames and Pierre Koenig, but he should. He created spare but elegant interiors and custom furnishings such as those shown in the 1952 floating glass-box home in Pasadena, pictured above. (The house was designed by Tuttle's employer, architect Thornton Ladd.)

Paul Tuttle photo Tuttle, right, was educated at the Chouinard Art Institute here in Southern California and studied architecture at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Arizona. He worked for Ladd and Welton Becket, designer of Hollywood landmarks such as the Capitol Records building and the Cinerama Dome. In the 1960s, Tuttle designed houses in the Santa Barbara area but earned his greatest acclaim for furniture designs in sculpted wood and geometric stainless steel. 

His work was the subject of one-man shows in 1966 at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon) and in 2003 at UC Santa Barbara.

"Paul Tuttle was a pure California modernist designer but also had a strong connection to the international style of Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer," says Reform Gallery owner Gerard O'Brien, who will be showcasing Tuttle designs at the modernism show. 

"He wasn't as well known as other California designers like Eames because very few of his designs were mass manufactured. Tuttle was a bespoke furniture designer for architects and many of his tables and chairs were handmade custom pieces."

Paul Tuttle surfboard table Among them: this surfboard table, right, made from walnut with a stainless steel plate leg. It was created for the Ladd house in the mid-1950s.

The one-of-a-kind table, priced at $18,000, is being shown with other Tuttle designs from 1951 to 1976, including a plastic and chrome side chair created for the Swiss furniture firm Strassle.

Los Angeles Modernism runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. 

Admission is $15 and includes a catalog with an essay on Tuttle by design writer and L.A. Times contributor Jeffrey Head. 

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Reform Gallery

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