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Food/Art in Los Angeles

Writer / Nancy Breslin

Nancy Breslin takes a trip to LA to eat and see some art.

I just got back from a trip to Los Angeles. We spent some time seeing friends and shopping (my 18 year old daughter was with us), taking pictures (I shot 6 rolls each with my Zero 2000 pinhole camera and my Diana+), but also managed to see some art. I assume it was a coincidence that two big venues had food related shows. The Getty Center (fabulous buildings, landscaping, views…) had two photo exhibits, one called Tasteful Pictures. Some memorable images were of peas in a pod by Edward Quigley (1935), bagels on Second Avenue by Weegee (1940), and a c-print of the food contraband room at a US Customs and Border Patrol office by Taryn Simon (2005) – featuring massive piles of fruits, sausages, and what looked like a pig’s head. However, I was most interested in a huge print by Floris Neusüss, titled “Supper for Robert Heinecken.” Neusüss used two large sheets of silver gelatin auto reverse paper as a tablecloth in a room lit by safelight, and then a meal was served and eaten at the table. We see shadows of plates, silverware, spilled sauces, the occasional resting hand. Here the artist is documenting a meal over time as I do, but with completely different results. It is an image that one can linger over. Some work from this show, and more information about the Neusüss piece, can be found at http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/focus_tasteful_pictures/.

The other photography show at the Getty Center right now is “Engaged Observers, Documentary Photography since the Sixties”, featuring some quite chilling work, particularly images from the Vietnam war by Philip Jones Griffiths and a huge grid of shots taken in military hospitals in Iraq by James Nachtwey.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (“lack-muh,” as we learned it is called), has a small show called Eatlacma, which features prints, paintings, photos and one video, all involving fruit. The work (including the crazy wallpaper over which it is installed) can be seen at http://eatlacma.org/exhibition/. The most unusual piece (in my book) is interesting in part because it isn’t immediately obvious why it is in a fruit-themed show. The image is a faded two color print of the famous Hollywood sign, and one must lift a protective cloth to view it. The work, by Edward Ruscha, is titled “Fruit Metrecal Hollywood” and was made in 1971 by screen printing with mixtures of apricot or grape jam and Metrecal, a diet-aide powder. Sounds like something alt photo folks would think of if they turned to screen printing.

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