Preview
Diary

Catherine Opie’s first film is right on queue

Part of Maxwell Williams' Take it to the Max

Film still from The Modernist, 2017 Catherine Opie, courtesy Regen Projects

While queuing to enter the screening dome set up in the middle of Regen Projects, the gallery’s director Shaun Regen fluttered by with a worried expression on her face. Not everyone would get inside to see Catherine Opie’s first foray into film-making, The Modernist. “It’s difficult,” Regen sighed, feeling the burden of the growing popularity of art exhibitions, where an overflow of gallery-goers seeking a shared experience end up just sharing the experience of waiting in a line. Thankfully, the 22-minute stop-motion, slideshow-style film is worth the wait. It follows her longtime collaborator Pig Pen as a serial arsonist who methodically, and often hilariously, burns down LA’s most famous mid-century Modern homes. Pig Pen pours gasoline all over these landmarks—the Chemosphere, a saucer-shaped house perched in the Hollywood Hills designed by the architect John Lautner and now owned by the publisher Benedikt Taschen; the Sheats-Goldstein Residence, also designed by Lautner and recently donated by the eccentric millionaire James Goldstein to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Larry Gagosian’s Beverly Hills base, originally built for the actor Gary Cooper—before dropping a single match and scampering off. The real catharsis comes in the form of newspaper articles Pig Pen cuts out the next morning and pastes up on the wall like a serial killer, particularly the one that reads: “Fire at Global Art Dealer Larry Gagosian’s A. Quincy Jones House.”