LOS ANGELES — It was the perfect setting for celebrating a book called “Looking at Los Angeles”: the pool deck of the landmark Argyle Hotel, where co-editors Ben Stiller and Marla Hamburg Kennedy sat down for dinner with 40 friends, overlooking the lights of the city.
“It was worth the schlep over here,” joked Kennedy, who was also full of praise for the exhibition held earlier at the Gallery at Hermes on Rodeo Drive, several miles distant.
The show, created by artist Christian Moeller, consisted of a darkened room lined with waist-high countertops. Visitors, including Diane Keaton, could peer through peepholes in the counter to view illuminated images from the book: works by such artists as Lee Friedlander, Ed Ruscha, Diane Arbus and young Polaroid photographer Mick Slack.
“This is a new way of looking at Los Angeles,” said Stiller, who mused that looking through the peepholes was like looking into a camera viewfinder.
The idea for the book was hatched two years ago, explained the actor, after he began collecting vintage Julius Schulman prints with Kennedy’s guidance.
“It just sort of evolved,” he said. “I always enjoyed photography and I just ended up buying pictures. When you make a movie, one of the first things you do is look at photographs as a visual reference point.”
Stiller, who was brought onto the board of the Los Angeles Conservancy by Keaton, decided to compile the lavish book to benefit the Conservancy, so he and Kennedy began sorting pictures of freeways, surfers, the Hollywood sign and other iconic elements of Southern California life. Looking at the city in days gone by only strengthened his commitment to the Conservancy, which is devoted to preserving the city’s architectural legacy.
“It seems like everything gets bulldozed and remade,” said Stiller. “L.A. needs the chance to have a history.”