Rethinking the Ranch

Exhibition opens Sunday to explore Cliff May and his open, glass-walled houses
Cliff May
(photo: courtesy University Art Museum/UC Santa Barbara)

Cliff May, generally regarded as the inventor of that all-American icon, the suburban ranch house, won kudos of all kinds during his half century-long career. But until now he’s never been the subject of a full-bore retrospective exhibition.

‘Carefree California: Cliff May and the Romance of the Ranch’ opens this Sunday, February 26, and runs through June 17 at UC Santa Barbara’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

The May exhibition uses drawings, models, magazine ads, pamphlets, film clips, and more to bring to life May’s transformation of the Spanish Colonial adobes he knew from his boyhood into the open-plan, glass-walled ranches he made his own.

May called his houses “modern homes for traditional Californians.”

The exhibit will put May into context, focusing on wartime industry, the growth of California, and on contemporary architects.

The show is part of ‘Pacific Standard Time,’ a series of exhibits at many museums and galleries, focusing on mid-century California art and design.

The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 pm, and admission is free. www.museum.ucsb.edu.