Enter the tender world of a Hollywood cameraman



LOS ANGELES – Part time capsule, part love letter, the exhibition If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke at Arcane Space is a tender recreation of the world of Hollywood cameraman Arthur Gerstle.

Gerstle, the grandfather of curator Morleigh Steinberg, was an avid handyman. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is first immersed in a reconstruction of his studio (the title of the exhibition is taken from a sign that was once hung in the space). With a meticulous set of steel tools and wooden cabinets – the same one made from reused cream cheese boxes – the viewer is invited to admire the objects not only for their utility but for their formal beauty. . The tools, which Steinberg meticulously photographed for the accompanying publication, are somewhat of a relic from a lost era of craftsmanship.

If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke at Arcane Space (photo by Morleigh Steinberg)

We see objects from Gerstle’s time to the golden age of Hollywood: a multitude of cameras, union cards, technical manuals, old pictures and black and white stills. During his career, which spanned more than half a century, Gerstle worked with Hollywood icons such as John Wayne, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra. While technologies were still in development for the growing film industry, the resourceful Gerstle often invented or reconfigured the camera equipment he needed – hand-cut covers or a custom-made device for a high-end camera. poached. It was very technical and often uncredited work. And while the spotlight often tends to shoot the big names, this exhibit offers a history of the film industry from the perspective of someone who has worked behind the scenes.

If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke (photo by Morleigh Steinberg)

Also on display are the whimsical dollhouse miniatures Gerstle made for these three granddaughters and his prodigious stamp collection – he would steal the exotic stamps from fan letters sent to the studio. There was apparently nothing he wouldn’t try his hand at, whether it was leatherworking, stained glass painting, or carving. (He also loved making bolos, and every member of the family had one.) While the results are often not perfect, their magic lies in what they reveal about the love of DIY itself.

Steinberg hopes the show, with its DIY philosophy, will inspire visitors to rethink their own relationship to objects. In a culture where many things are designed to be disposable and where machines of increasing complexity have reduced the need for handcrafted manufacture, the exhibit is a testament to the virtues of ingenuity and repair.

If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke at Arcane Space (author’s photo for Hyperallergic)

If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke continue to Arcane Space (324 Sunset Avenue, Venice, Los Angeles) until November 28. The exhibition was organized by Morleigh Steinberg.

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