“About 10 years ago, my friend Peter was working a lot with marble in Vietnam, and I invited him to do a project here. Back then there was just a brown dirt hill with a few trees. I told him, ‘Do whatever you want,’ ” Fischer recalls. Regli did just that, populating the steep hillside site with more than 40 marble figures, many drawn from the artist’s ongoing Reality Hacking series. The cast of characters includes Buddhas, snowmen, money frogs, demon quellers, and other religious and mythological figures. As for the scale of the enterprise—which required the construction of metal sleds to transport the monolithic sculptures up the difficult terrain—Fischer remains sanguine. “That’s the fun of it. It’s all one work, one piece of art, and artworks don’t get better when you compromise,” he says.
Once the installation—known as Garden for Lotti, in honor of the artist’s first daughter—was complete, “the sculptures were still just sitting on a brown dirt hill, which looked stupid,” Fischer recalls, laughing. So the artist commissioned landscape architect Melinda Taylor, best known for the delightful public garden she designed behind Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., to transform the statue-peppered dirt patch into a proper sylvan retreat. Taylor surrounded the Regli sculptures with native California plants, and as the project progressed, she dedicated specific parcels to tropical, Australian, Mediterranean, and edible plantings. “It’s really a series of gardens within a garden,” Taylor says of the rambling site.
As the design domino effect goes, once the garden was planted and thriving, Fischer felt the house looked a little sad in comparison. Over the course of several years, he turned his attention to refining the structure, framing new views, finishing the guest quarters below the main family residence, and tricking out his oversize kitchen. “Some rooms, like the kitchen, you want to make you feel up and excited,” he says of his decorative impulses. “Other rooms, like the living room, you want to lower your heart rate.” Although its walls are covered in art, only the wallpaper was authored by Fischer himself. “I learn more from looking at other people’s work, and I can relax more around other people’s work,” he insists, noting his preference for art by friends such as Rudolf Stingel, Josh Smith, Spencer Sweeney, and Dan Colen.
For the past few years, Fischer has been refining his hillside paradise with the help of landscape designer Jennifer Johnson, “filling in the blanks,” as the artist says. And after a period of relative calm devoid of major construction projects, Fischer is contemplating the prospect of building a ground-up house on the site. “I’ve always lived in old homes and apartments, so the idea of doing something entirely new—where you call the shots and you determine what you need—is sort of scary,” he says. “But I think I’m ready.” Let the games begin.