Fruit Trees: Where Are They Now?

February 19, 2010

Left to right: Matias Viegener, Austin Young, and David Burns of Fallen Fruit.

A few weeks ago, we told you about LACMA’s collaboration with Fallen Fruit and our kickoff event, the fruit tree giveaway. Over the course of two days, Fallen Fruit facilitated the distribution of 300 fruit trees to families who filled out adoption forms and promised to plant their tree in a public place or on the perimeter of their property.

New “parents” at the Watts Towers Arts Center.

With trees come stories. I’ve always been partial to the Washington Square Moon Tree in my hometown of Philadelphia, the first of many moon trees planted during the Bicentennial by astronaut Stuart Roosa, who carried the seeds on a trip to the moon to mark the contributions forests have made to our way of life. Fallen Fruit follows up with the families that adopt, and they often receive photos and stories about how the trees are doing and where they were planted.

One story in particular stands out from the adoptions—Diann Bryant, who adopted in Watts surrounded by her family and friends, responded via email that she planted her Fuji apple tree in her son’s honor. He passed away four years ago to the day of the adoption. Another adopter, Kevin West, local canner and jammer, told me that he didn’t have the proper spot to make his new Cuties Clementine tree publicly accessible, but that he would use his jam-making talents to provide jars of jam for all in the neighborhood. He also wrote a post on his blog about the day including a survey of the “socio-geography” of citrus in Southern California.

Here are some more pictures and stories from new tree parents:

An email sweetly signed A Happy Little Family In Los Angeles explains: “We don't have a proper shovel, so we dug this hole, laboriously, with a little trowel, but we made it big enough for our new, beautiful little tree. After we watered the hole and the tree we planted the tree and now we are waiting for oranges. We think we might have some next week.”

Sarah Chambers says: “Here is the tree in its pot. I am going to try and get it established and get a saucer under it in the warm weather. Not sure if I can replant it into the ground around me as the soil is rock hard dust for most of the year and so watering would be the main consideration. I used cactus soil for good drainage as advised by the plant center. I hope it stays healthy and inspires others in its place.”

Here’s Cuties Clementine new dad Michael Kurcfeld and his tree pot with garnish.

Agata Gotfryd reported: “Here is a picture of my fruit tree which was planted in San Pedro by the sidewalk by my house. My niece helped with the planting.”

You can follow the fruit tree futures and see other photos of EATLACMA events as they happen on the EATLACMA Flickr page.

Sarah Bay Williams

How to View Renoir

February 18, 2010

Renoir wasn’t always popular. As a man who helped pioneer the age of impressionism, the artist’s dabbling in modernism was not quite met with a warm response. A decade later, author Roger Benjamin has a simple solution to those who dismissed the aging painter—look at the paintings through the eyes of Matisse, a friend and champion of Renoir. To see late Renoir through Matisse’s eyes is to love late Renoir.

Benjamin’s essay, “Why Did Matisse Love Late Renoir?” in the exhibition catalogue breaks down the process nicely.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "The Concert" (1918-19), collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Gift of Reuben Wells Leonard Estate Photo © 2009 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto/The Bridgeman Art Library

Step One
“Learn to love the indecisive in form. Away with specification, all sharp lines. Renoir’s world is a cottony world.”

Step Two
“To love his color you must accept red and pink as the principal colors that translate the world, with green and pale blues as the primary obverse.”

Step Three
“To understand his landscape you have to accept that Renoir’s was a life confined by illness. In it, you are either inside—a theater of curtains, upholstered chairs, and costume props—or you are outside it, near the house: a world of gravel paths, old stone walls, clumps of foliage…”

Step Four
“To love his women you have to forget the body we know from the media today, and intuit one based on the sensation of proximity, indeed intimacy.”

Annie Carone, Jr. Associate, Communications

Site Specific

February 16, 2010

Clockwise from top left: Promo image for the 1955 film "The Kentuckian"; Thomas Hart Benton, "The Kentuckian" (1954), oil on canvas, gift of Burt Lancaster; detail of Benton's painting; Michael Asher, "Sign in the Park" (detail), 1981.

What do American painter Thomas Hart Benton and conceptual artist Michael Asher have in common? I had no idea either until my recent serendipitous discovery (in our amazing new Reading Room) of The Museum as Site: Sixteen Projects, the exhibition catalogue that first caught my eye the day the Reading Room launched. I started clicking through and was astonished to find on page 36 an image of Benton’s 1954 painting in our collection, The Kentuckian. Painted for the eponymous movie starring and directed by Burt Lancaster, The Kentuckian depicts Lancaster as frontiersman “Big Eli Wakefield,” Donald MacDonald as his son “Little Eli Wakefield”—and their dog. Turns out it inspired Asher’s 1981 project: Sign in the Park. As curator Stephanie Barron wrote in the catalogue, Asher’s project deals “very specifically with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, its own site in Los Angeles, and its relation to Hollywood.” You can still see The Kentuckian in our American galleries (and in our Collections Online) and now you can virtually flip to page 35 of The Museum as Site to read just how Asher played Benton’s monumental painting (and the dog!) off of these L.A. sites. You’ll soon realize, truth be told, that Asher and Benton don’t really have anything in common—anything that is, except LACMA as site.

Austen Bailly

Free General Admission on Presidents Day

February 15, 2010

Today is your lucky day. Not only do you (hopefully) get to stay home from work, but it’s a Target Free Holiday Monday at LACMA. There’s no better time to explore the permanent collection. Join in on a tour of our Modern Collection or our Islamic Collection this afternoon. Or simply stroll through the galleries on your own. Either way, you can’t beat the price.

*Please note that the Renoir exhibition still requires a special ticket.

Q&A With Curator Claudia Einecke

February 11, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing LACMA curator Claudia Einecke about the exhibition Renoir in the 20th Century, which opens on Sunday. Claudia spoke about how art historians have tended to overlook Renoir’s late paintings, and her opinion that it is high time we reexamine this body of work.

Q. The show includes numerous paintings of Renoir’s immediate family, especially his son Jean and his nanny, Gabrielle. Tell me about them.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Gabrielle and Jean," 1895, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, photo © 2009 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris/RMN, by Hervé Lewandowski

A. The picture of Jean and his nanny, Gabrielle (a cousin of Renoir’s wife), is one of those images that look very naturalistic and very caught on the fly. The young boy is doing a normal everyday activity. At the same time the picture itself contains associations and references to Old Master art. In this, as in most of Renoir’s paintings, you see him combine realism and informality with references to high art—art with a capital “A” if you wish.

When Pablo Picasso became a father, he started drawing and painting his young children similarly absorbed in activity. Even though Picasso’s pictures will never look like Renoir’s, I believe the way of approaching the subject matter and the composition is something that Picasso got from looking at Renoir’s pictures.

Q. The show includes sculpture by Maillol. What is the connection between the two artists?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Bather on a Rock," 1892, private collection, Paris, photo © 2009 Private Collection/Peter Willi/The Bridgeman Art Library

A. Maillol, who is now mostly known as a sculptor, began his career as a painter and was greatly influenced by Renoir and Renoir’s nudes. He said to a sculptor colleague, “Look at Renoir’s nudes. They are sculpture. That’s all you need.”

This seated bather is probably the type of nude that inspired Maillol, in the way the figure occupies the space fully and is fully rounded. The background is really just a backdrop against which the figure emerges as a fully three-dimensional entity. I think the monumentality—the fullness of Renoir’s figures—is something that we find very much reflected in Maillol. They share a similar preference for a powerful physical type.

Q. Late in his life, Renoir lived in the South of France. What was significant about his move there?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Terrace at Cagnes," 1905, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, Tokyo, photo © 2009 Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, all rights reserved

A. Terrace at Cagnes shows the village where the family first lived when they moved to the south. You can actually see the location of Renoir’s apartment: it’s the white building on the extreme right.

Initially, Renoir moved to the south of France for health reasons (he suffered from crippling rheumatoid arthritis). But I think he also had a very special understanding and appreciation of the landscape in that region. He understood the south of France as the site where the old Arcadian myth originated—the kind of landscape where you can imagine nymphs and gods and goddesses living as they do in Greek mythology.

Q. The painting of Jean Renoir dressed as a hunter belongs to the museum, and it is a favorite of many visitors to LACMA. Tell me about it.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Jean as a Huntsman," 1910, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift through the generosity of the late Mr. Jean Renoir and Madame Dido Renoir, photo © 2009 Museum Associates/LACMA

A. Jean Renoir became quite a well-known film director and eventually moved to Los Angeles. Years after the painting was made, he recalled posing for the picture. He wrote, “At Les Collettes, when I was fifteen years old, I wore a jacket that reminded my father of a hunter, so he had me pose with a gun and with Bob for a hunting dog. The gun was borrowed from one of our farmers. I shot it only once, killed a bird, and was horrified.”

Jean spoke at LACMA in 1979, and at that time, he recalled that his father intended the painting to fit a specific frame—a magnificent carved and gilded antique Italian frame. The painting is still displayed in that frame today.

Q. How do you hope Renoir will be remembered?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Self-Portrait with White Hat," 1910, private collection courtesy of Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, photo courtesy Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris/akg-images

A. Renoir is usually seen and thought of as an impressionist and he’s been appreciated as an impressionist, but in fact, he left impressionism behind around 1880. His later paintings really took a different turn. His late paintings reveal his knowledge of old masters like Titian and Reubens.

In the twentieth century, art historians tended to favor modern art that led directly to modern twentieth century abstract painting. Many critics felt that Renoir’s late painting was old-fashioned, reactionary, and not modern. I think it is time that the great prolific work that he did later in his career be recognized and understood on its own terms, as something that is going someplace—perhaps just not where modernist critics wanted it to go.

In particular, one of the aspects of his work that has created a lot of discomfort among critics and art historians are his late nudes. I hope that today, with developments in contemporary art, where you have artists distorting the body as well, maybe we are ready to look at these works and judge them on different terms.

Amy Heibel

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