Matthew Cusick: Diamonds are Forever

March 6 – April 3, 1999


Kent Gallery is pleased to present a new artist to the gallery, Matthew Cusick.  Having received his BFA from Cooper Union in 1993, he has been exhibiting in New York since 1994.  Examining the strategies of architecture, commercial photography and film, Cusick's hard-edge paintings investigate the psychological constructs of contemporary life (Dream Architecture). 




1797: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s dream of “Xanadu”

At the author’s request, published alongside his epic poem, Kubla Khan: or a vision in a dream A fragment is Coleridge’s account of the deep opium induced dream that inspired him to write the poem.  Upon awakening from the dream, and due to the misfortune of immediately being interrupted by a business appointment, Coleridge was unable to recall the entirety of the blissful vision that he had experienced, and so after writing down all he could remember, added to the title an addendum “A fragment”.


John Lautner, Architect (1911-1994)

After reading Frank Lloyd Wright’s autobiography in 1933, he interviewed with Mr. Wright and was accepted as an apprentice at Taliesin.  In 1939, Lautner arrived in Los Angeles to supervise the construction of the Sturges Residence on behalf of Wright.  Two years later, he opened his own practice in Hollywood.

Lautner's highly innovative and unusual buildings are almost exclusively personal residences, his most famous being the "Chemosphere House", a flying saucer structure cantilevered off the Hollywood hills.


1968:  Elrod Residence, Palm Springs, California

Designed by John Lautner for the interior designer, Arthur Elrod (1928-1974).  Perched on the edge of a mountain, like an eagle’s nest, the Elrod Residence is a complex, expansive, and luxurious home built to suit the needs of an extravagant and distinguished interior designer (named by Time Magazine as one of the top ten in the United States).  Known as one of Lautner’s most exceptional designs,  the Elrod Residence continues Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy of integrating architecture with nature.  The living room, a conical dome with nine clerestories radiating from it's center, exemplified Lautner's use of elaborate poured concrete.  The existing rock formations of the landscape were built into the home, as well as a pool that begins inside the house and extends outside the perimeter into the surrounding landscape.  Panoramic views of Mount Jacinto and Palm Springs Valley are provided by glass walls and doors precisely cut to the contours of the rock formations


1970:  Cubby’s Dream

Albert “cubby” Broccoli, the Hollywood producer responsible for bringing James Bond to the silver screen, has a dream in which he goes to visit an aging friend, the billionaire mogul Howard Hughes.  Upon arriving at Hughes’ luxurious suite at the Xanadu Princess Hotel in Las Vegas, Cubby finds himself peering through the glass façade at a man sitting in a chair by an Arco lamp.  Cubby soon discovers that the man he is watching is really not Howard Hughes, but rather a clone and an imposter.  Cubby describes his dream to writer Richard Maibaum, who then uses the dream as the basis for the next James Bond film "Diamonds are Forever".  In doing so, Maibaum creates the character of Willard Whyte, who is the billionaire held prisoner in his own house by an imposter who impersonates him in a scheme designed to control the world.  Whyte’s desert penthouse palace is Lautner’s Elrod Residence.  Ken Adams (the production designer who created the futuristic hallmark look of the James Bond films) selected the Elrod Residence based on the similarities of taste and extravagance between Arthur Elrod and Howard Hughes (Willard Whyte).  Adam uses the exact furniture and art found in the Elrod home for the props (although some replicas were substituted to protect them from damage).


1971:  Playboy Magazine, November, “A Playboy Pad: Pleasure on the Rocks

One month before the release of Diamonds are Forever, Playboy publishes a five-page pictorial spread featuring the Elrod Residence.  The article stages the typical Hugh Hefner party of cocktails, dinner, and Playboy Bunnies.  In addition to the emblematic living room and pool terrace, Playboy reveals to the public the more intimate aspects of the Elrod home such as the master bedroom, master bath, and sauna room.  Playboy, who has endorsed the James Bond movies in the past by dedicating entire issues to the “The Women of James Bond”, will soon be rewarded by a scene in Diamonds are Forever when Bond displays his Playboy club membership card.


December 17, 1971: Diamonds are Forever is released in Los Angeles

The 6-minute sequence of Lautner’s modern palace in the desert begins as James Bond gazes up the rocky mountain at the Elrod House and begins his approach.  Upon entering, Bond encounters the beautiful but deadly guardians of the residence, Bambi and Thumper.  The two acrobatic women engage in a melee with Bond as they carouse through the living room of the Elrod Residence, slamming into works of art and furniture, and swinging from a Calderesque mobile.  Finally Bond is defeated and is thrown over what seems to be the edge of the mountain.  Below the precipice is the pool which Bambi and Thumper dive into to finish Bond off, but after an orgasmic swell of thrashing bodies, Bond finally prevails.