Fads, by definition, come and go. And with the aid of today’s media technology connecting every corner of the world simultaneously, never in history have these trends sprung into existence and died out as rapidly as right now, like stars shooting across the night sky on a journey into oblivion. Meanwhile, genuinely artistic style remains steadfast all the while, the North Star by which to guide one’s ship.
Initially a fad itself, the Modernism movement that sprung up immediately after the Second World War has, with its uniquely Southern California style, has stubbornly survived the test of time to become an iconic expression of a progressive-minded, hedonistic ethos that persists as an artifact of a Golden Age in a bland and cynical world bereft of both whimsy and sophistication. At least that is the aesthetically moral high ground one discovers in the heart of this valley in mid-October.
Held twice annually (a fall preview over the Columbus Day weekend and the main event, which will be held February 11-21), Palm Springs Modernism Week is for urbane midcentury style aficionados what Coachella, the valley’s other big annual attraction, is to overserved selfie-taking reality-types. The autumnal celebration, like a collegiate homecoming weekend, announces the return of a vibrant new season with deep roots in the past. With the mercury finally taking a dip, it is time to return once again to the Hollywood playground that is Palm Springs.
Among the art on display this year is the work of Stephen Baumbach, whose Anza series displays a love of the desert landscape, which he brings vibrantly to life. Ronald Graziano, meanwhile, breathes new life into objects we might consider inanimate. The former Chicago-based designer and builder shapes wood and metal into sculptured lamps and furniture. Gerald Patrick, on the other hand, produces large painted canvases in which he bears his soul. His homage to 9-11 conveys the depths of that soul. The work of the three was on display during the mini-Modernism weekend.
As for accommodations, there are some great classic resorts in the area and much ink, literal and lately figurative, has been spilled on their behalf. So too, there are a few swanky new hotels about which much has been Instagrammed. Here’s a thought: Why not get your own pad? Visit Palm Springs offers Midcentury Modern rental properties all around town at irresistible rates. Have the pool to yourself, playing your personal iPod tunes, stream your Netflix queue in your living room, mix gin martinis at your own wet bar. Invite a few of your classiest friends, divvy up the bill, take turns cooking and tending bar. Uber a few blocks to downtown if you get the urge.
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.