Even by ordinary standards of tract housing, the neighborhood was noticeably crowded: 794 identical homes, all densely packed on a single lot. The living space inside each of the 8″ x 11″ x 8″ structures wasn’t much to talk about either. But the view from the 80-foot-high Malibu cliff, with Los Angeles in the far distance, was glorious. And considering the tight real estate market in Southern California, well, who knows?
Artist Stephen Pearson, 32, knows. He created his Lilliputian Levittown as a gift to Los Angeles on the city’s 200th birthday. The exhibit’s official title—”Two Hundred Years of Architecture: A Bicentennial Salute to Los Angeles”—was a straight-faced, ironic commentary on the tackiness of urban sprawl. Yet, far from being offended, visitors by the hundreds toured the site during its six-week stand. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that people kept coming back for a second look,” says Pearson, beaming.
Born in Santa Monica, Pearson studied art at Manhattan’s Hunter College. Of late he has specialized in what he terms “architectural sculpture studies.” In the workaday world, the divorced father of two is a Manhattan art gallery director; he took time off to build his miniature houses, each with clapboard siding painted blue and topped with a tin roof.
Though his suburb in the sun has now vanished, house closings continue through the Asher/Faure Gallery in Los Angeles. But even with prices ranging up to $600 apiece, Pearson says, he’ll barely break even on the deal.