PASADENA, Calif. — Vandalism, murder, squatting, military base, decay — these are the many scandals that plagued E-1027, a home in the French Riviera designed by the architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray. The most famous of these incidents involved a naked Le Corbusier, who defiled the minimalist, color-blocked walls in E-1027 while staying as a house guest. He painted lewd cubist murals to mock Gray’s bisexuality and to undermine her creative vision as one of the few women working in the architectural field.
In Kim Schoenstadt: Enter Slowly, The Legacy of an Idea at the Art Center College of Design, Schoenstadt dedicates an entire gallery to Gray and E-1027. Her sculptures, wall drawings, embroidered canvases, and collages look past the controversies that made Gray’s house so famous, and focus instead on Gray’s architectural talent — in other words, she treats her like a man.
On two walls, Schoenstadt paints bright, bold colors, and attaches to them skeletal nickel sculptures, loose recreations of the built-in furniture that Gray designed for E-1027. On the green and brown wall of “Enter Slowly Series: Willful Disregard” (2020–2021), the curved nickel resembles a writing desk. The wall next to it is a multi-colored palette of yellow, blue, and brown, a nickel sculpture suggesting a nightstand. While the former wall is colored to match Gray’s original home, the latter is painted in accordance to an inaccurate, male conservator’s restoration. Schoenstadt places these two walls in conversation to show how even professionals lead with their bias.
In fact, Enter Slowly displays how, inexplicably, Gray’s home was distorted over time. Schoenstadt shares her research with us — Gray’s schematics, color studies, scale models, and photography — to illuminate how the abundance of archival documentation has been overshadowed by Le Corbusier’s time in the residence. Conservationists paid more attention to the colors in Le Corbusier’s graffiti and his own signature styles when they discussed the villa. It wouldn’t be until 2015, after decades of neglect, that E-1027 would be restored with the walls, furniture, and decor reflecting Gray’s 1929 masterpiece.
As if on a mission to solely correct these conservation injustices, Schoenstadt uses the rest of the exhibition to write a love letter to Gray and E-1027. Pulling abstract motifs from rugs that Gray designed, Schoenstadt embroiders gold columns and royal blue vectors on untreated canvas, adding blossoms of ink that mimic the rough waves of the French Riviera’s seaside — the landscape that E-1027 overlooks, and the waters in which Le Corbusier drowned.
Kim Schoenstadt: Enter Slowly, The Legacy of an Idea at the Art Center College of Design
The jagged motif from Gray’s rug becomes a timeline in “Enter Slowly Legacy” (2021), connecting various sketches of Gray’s architectural experiments, redrawn in Schoenstadt’s loose, playful style. These include a cylindrical house, known as Maison Ellipse, and a half-domed camping shelter. Schoenstadt punctuates her drawings with pops of color, faithful to those Gray used in her studies, like jade, periwinkle, and burgundy.
Though Schoenstadt can only communicate with Gray through archives, Enter Slowly restores the late architect’s legacy, transforming Gray from an outcast to a venerable icon.
Kim Schoenstadt: Enter Slowly, The Legacy of an Idea continues at the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery at the Art Center College of Design (1700 Lida St, Pasadena, Calif.) through February 27, 2022. The exhibition is curated by Julie Joyce.