EXHIBITIONS | When the L.A. County Fair Was Totally Mod

Posted on Wed., Nov. 2, 2011 by Thea Page
A room display from the
A room display from the "Arts of Daily Living" exhibition, as photographed by Maynard L. Parker. Copyright Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

It's 1954. Where do you go to see the hottest interior design trends? The Los Angeles County Fair, of course.

In the Fine Arts Building of the 1954 L.A. County Fair, Millard Sheets, director of exhibitions—and accomplished painter, influential chair of Scripps College's art department, designer of dozens of bank mosaics, and all around art impresario—collaborated closely with the staff of House Beautiful magazine to produce an extraordinary installation of 22 architect-designed model rooms. It was called "The Arts of Daily Living." Many Pomona Valley artists and artisans, including Sam Maloof, created specific works for the rooms.

On Nov. 9, to complement "The House That Sam Built: Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945–1985" (on view in the Boone Gallery through Jan. 30), Jeremy Adamson, curator of a 2001 Smithsonian retrospective on Maloof, will discuss the landmark exhibition of '54. The talk takes place in Friends' Hall at 6:30 and is free and open to the public.

Designed as "realistic depictions of idealistic living," according to Adamson, "The Arts of Daily Living" also included works by Maloof's artist friends—Betty Davenport Ford, Harrison McIntosh, Albert Stewart, and John Svenson, to name a few—who also are highlighted in "The House That Sam Built."

Promoting House Beautiful's crusading vision of a more "livable," American-style modern home (as opposed to the avant garde Case Study House Program supported by Arts & Architecture magazine), the show was viewed by almost a million visitors.

Thea M. Page is art writer and special projects manager at The Huntington.