How the West Was Pumped

Even beachfront property has its downsides. When residents of Long Beach, that concrete-and-condo stepchild of the SoCal sun scene, looked out toward the horizon back in '65, they couldn't help but notice a few metal islands peaking from the glass surface of that toxic ocean. Those oil-drilling platforms, thoughtfully named after our ill-fated Apollo-astro heroes, sat pumping quietly as a pacemaker but were, unfortunately for beachcombers and deco-hut inhabitants, ugly as a heart attack.

Architect Joseph Linesch was commissioned to give the unforgiving eyesores a face-lift. Although largely unknown at the time, Linesch went on to create such fantastical environments as the Magic Kingdom and Epcot center for Walt Disney World, as well as the Shin'en Kan Pavilion and East Sculpture Gardens at LACMA. Able to turn drab reality into gold with a dash of light, color and tropical-esque waterfalls, Linesch was the ideal candidate for the oil-island makeover and truly believed Long Beach could become the "Riviera of the West."

Riviera may be a stretch, but Long Beach's coast certainly has its own style. Cal State Long Beach's exhibition "Fantasy Islands: Landscaping Long Beach's Oil Platforms" takes a look at Linesch's process—equal parts illusion, abstraction and Tomorrowland aesthetics—and includes historical drawings in addition to period and contemporary photographs. You want to see the islands up close in all their glory? A once in-a-lifetime tour (assuming you don't have watercraft access and some camouflage) of the islands is scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition. War, purse-numbing prices and Michael Moore hysterics aside, it looks like oil just may be the new black.

"Fantasy Islands: Landscaping Long Beach's Oil Platforms" at University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 985-5761. Open Tues.-Wed. & Fri.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.; Thurs., noon-8 p.m. $4.


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