An afternoon with Xavier Veilhan at Neutra's VDL

“This house is not about a façade but about a function, not about size or luxury but about the quality of light and its connection to the outdoors. The interior of the building has been thought through like a car, a plane, or even more like the cabin of a boat: it is the perfect equation between people, function and environment.

I want to celebrate and expand the concept of modernity that this represents.” - Xavier Veilhan

Mobile (Neutra)
(all photography by David John)

For the past weeks, Xavier Veilhan and his family have been living in Neutra's VDL in Silver Lake. As we gathered on the top floor, looking blindly out into the reservoir, Xavier mentioned his children had been choosing to sleep on the top level of the VDL House in their sleeping bags. Each morning, as the sun rises, they move into the corners, he told us, hiding from the sun, stealing a few more hours of sleep from nature. It is near impossible to hide from nature in this home.

"The VDL house was the embodiment of then current European avant-garde design scarcely known to the people of Los Angeles. Its architect was equally unknown. Yet in years hence his name became famous and his works associated with modern architecture in California. This house was Richard Neutra’s own, his third building in America and the house in which he was to live and work for nearly three decades." (here)

Xavier Veilhan has not only been living in Neutra's VDL Research House, but he has been working on Architectones. His site specific installation consists of sculptural forms that speak of the presence of Neutra, modernity, as well as his own family's history and interactions with the home. Outside the home by the sidewalk on Silver Lake Blvd, a large black silhouette of Richard Neutra stands strong underneath a street lamp. I imagine late-night drivers gazing twice in their rear-view mirrors, wondering if they had witnessed the ghost of Neutra.

On the roof of the VDL, Veilhan has constructed and installed a black flag, to which Veilhan mentions his love for the iconic L.A. band, Black Flag. It was actually through music that I first encountered Veilhan's work, which was on the cover of the pop electronic band, AIR. Later, I discovered his collaborations with musician Sebastien Tellier, and designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, as well as Daniel Buren. (who has a show up now at ACE Gallery on Wilshire).

Veilhan's works inhabit the rooms and balconies, painted in matte black, except for his "Mobile (Neutra)" which in its silver and shimmering tones, gently interacts with the sun's rays. An ode to light and nature.

Neutra's VDL Research House has had many years of neglect. It's fate looked darkened for quite some time. (Read an article by Orhan Ayyüce, about its current history). But today, the house was alive with visitors, speaking of art, a family using the space for creation and experimentation. The roof top reflecting pool was being filled with water once again, as we gathered, looking out, further, and further, into the hills. A perfect Los Angeles sunset.

- David John

the black flag and silhouette of Veilhan's family on the roof of the VDL

the exterior of the home

"Xavier Veilhan has created a new body of work specifically for the Modernist house Richard Neutra designed for his family and architectural practice. Consisting of monochrome interventions, the exhibition features sculptures throughout the property, from the front garden through the ground floor and domestic quarters to the rooftop reflecting pool. Statues, models, and other objects dialogue with the Modernist structure: its glass facades, rooftops, water basins and fountains. Both abstract and figurative, the artworks loosely trace the decades of the last century by focusing on the personal and professional history of architect Richard Neutra, his times, and Veilhan and his family’s interaction with the house." (taken from press release)

"Neutra on Horseback"
-Xavier Veilhan

“Only those, who have lived in a Neutra House, would ever understand how wonderful the daily satisfactions and delights are and how much this experience help to augment the joy of living. This especially the case in this house which is built on three levels. With the many glass surfaces, mirrors, pools that reflect trees and flowers, every step from room to room, stairway up and down, is an aesthetic and artistic experience, which I have the good fortune to enjoy, while I move about the house and watch the changing weather.

- Mrs. Dione Neutra

Xavier Veilhan, with Mobile (Neutra)

Xavier explaining the connection of the circle, sound, and modernity.
This work, not yet installed, was about to be installed next to Neutra's circle,
near the entrance to the VDL.

"Veilhan’s Architectones project in Los Angeles is organized by local architect, curator and educator, Francois Perrin. He has completed several contemporary residences and curated the exhibition “Yves Klein: Air Architecture” at the MAK Center for Art & Architecture at the Schindler House and other venues. Notes Perrin, “This project participates in the long tradition of artists interacting with architecture and writes another chapter in this ongoing dialogue. It reactivates an important building of Los Angeles architectural history through the eyes of a contemporary artist” (taken from press release)

catalog from previous Veilhan show

The VDL Research House is located at 2300 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles 90039. The exhibition will be open Thursday–Sunday from August 9 – September 16, 2012. Hours are Thursday/Friday 3-8 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Admission is $10 on Saturdays, when there are docent-led architecture tours of the house. The suggested donation on other days is $10. Related events are free with donation to the VDL House. For more information on Architectones Los Angeles, please visit:

(all photography by David John)