(One of countless sculptures at the Huntington)
Los Angeles is a fairly new American city. In 1900, its population ranked it only 36th in the nation. However, by 1930 our fair city was up to number five, and men like Henry Huntington had a lot to do with this change in fortunes. Gilded Age plutocrat par excellence, Huntington designed and built a trolley system that some of us would love to get to use today. Fortunately, we do have access to another of Huntington’s gifts to the area: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. I recently took a trip out to there with a buddy who was in town to do some research on the poet Wallace Stevens, whose papers (along with those of Kingsley Amis, Christopher Isherwood, and many others) are housed there. (Check out my recent trip plus John Frame’s awesome works after the jump.)
(The Huntington’s desert garden)
(L I V I N, Huntington-style)
Although I have been to the Huntington on numerous occasions, each visit leaves me more impressed than the last. With 14 themed gardens (including Japanese, Chinese, and Australian) set on 207 acres, one can spend an entire day looking at plants and flowers, completely unaware of the fact that the Huntington is also home to some of the most famous examples of European and American paintings, sculptures, drawings, and even furniture. In addition, the library currently houses exhibits on the history of science, the development of California and the West, and England’s Regency Period, or as my British girlfriend put it, “the one with all the Georges” (1811-1820).
(The view from the mansion)
(The Huntington Library)
On my visit, I was fortunate to catch the last day of an astounding exhibition of the work of multimedia artist John Frame. Frame’s latest project, “Three Fragments of a Lost Tale,” is the first installment of his three-part The Tale of a Crippled Boy, a film that will combine stop-motion animation and live action to tell a story that only the artist seems to know at this point. In spite of this inscrutability, or perhaps because of it, the film fragment, photographs, and complex dolls on display at the Huntington were haunting. Frame’s aesthetic must be seen to be understood, but his work reminds me of Tim Burton’s if one were to strip away the vaguely cheesy Hollywood-meets-sad-goth-kid vibe that dominates too much of his work. Needless to say, you won’t be seeing The Tale of a Crippled Boy in theaters, and certainly not in 3-D.
(An animation still from “Three Fragments of a Lost Tale.” Following images courtesy of the artist’s website)
)”The Tottentanzers Performing the Palace of Sleep”)
Of course, the Huntington is not without its flaws. Its weekend admission rate of $20 for adults is steep, especially in light of the fact that one cannot take food beyond the garden’s front gates. There are discounted rates for seniors, students, and children, and admission is free the first Thursday of every month, but the Huntington is simply not a place most can afford to visit on a regular basis. But perhaps that is a good thing, if absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. I am certainly smitten, and look forward to returning, whenever that may be.