“Nightwalk” in the Chinese Garden

The Garden of Flowing Fragrance at The Huntington is the inspiration for playwright Stan Lai’s new site-specific work, Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden, which is having its sold-out world premiere through Oct. 26, 2018. Photo by Martha Benedict. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

It was an auspicious omen. At dusk, during a mid-September rehearsal of Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden—The Huntington’s first-ever, site-specific, evening theatrical production—“these huge wild geese came in formation and they flew down and sort of circled us and left,” says playwright-director Stan Lai. “That felt so wonderful. Sort of like they were blessing us.”

Lai, an acclaimed figure in contemporary Chinese-language theater in China and Taiwan, has staged Nightwalk (the sold-out run ends October 26) in collaboration with The Huntington and CalArts’ professional Center for New Performance. The piece is inspired by The Peony Pavilion, a romantic tragicomedy by 16th-century Chinese dramatist Tang Xianzu about a maiden who dies of love for a man in her dreams; the dream man is given real-life existence, and the couple’s fated love trumps death.

Jessika Van as the Maiden, Chenxue Luo as the Opera Singer, and Christine Lin as Fragrance. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

“Isn’t that wild?” Lai asks. “I’ve always thought the 16th-century Chinese playwrights were so avant-garde. If you see [the 2010 film] Inception, you say, wow, that’s cool. I say, well they did it long ago.”

In Nightwalk, performed in English, a Ming dynasty playwright is tormented by his love for the maiden of his creation; in a parallel story, a 1920s Latino artist is smitten with the portrait of a girl who has died, and with her ghost. The play is about “dreams and reality and the border between them,” Lai says. “It’s about life and death and the border between them, about borders and immigration, and the abstract borders between people.”

Sarah Schulte as the Curator, Adam J. Smith as Mr. Huntington, Peter Mark as the Artist, and Lizinke Kruger as Bella. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

Audiences in separate groups follow lantern-bearing guides through the Chinese Garden, viewing scenes on bridges, in the graceful pavilions, and on pathways through shadows cast by massive limestone rocks. One group first sees the play in the setting of 16th-century China; the other group’s perspective is 1920s Southern California. (Henry Huntington, portrayed by CalArts faculty member Adam Smith, appears; Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, The Huntington’s iconic painting, is a haunting element.) At the halfway mark, the groups change places. “You see all the scenes in their entirety,” Lai notes, “no matter which direction you go, but in a different sequence. It really is a journey.”

Reggie Yip as the Maid. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

Lai and Travis Preston, dean of CalArts’ School of Theater and artistic director of their Center for New Performance, credit mutual friend Judy Yin Shih with sparking Lai’s idea for a theater piece in the Chinese Garden. Shih, a member of The Huntington’s Board of Overseers, “brought me into the Garden,” Lai recalls, “and said, ‘would you think of doing a piece in here?’” Lai flashed back to his production of Six Plays of Samuel Beckett, staged decades ago in a garden in Taipei, Taiwan. “It was quite a memorable performance under candlelight at night,” he says. Lai’s response to Shih: “Yes! I can foresee something here.” A year later, in 2016, Lai came to CalArts to shape Nightwalk with Preston and the Center for New Performance, a process that culminated in a workshop production.

“The Huntington was very receptive to our ideas,” but “a little cautious,” Lai says. “We had long discussions about what we can and can’t do in the Chinese Garden, and they have been wonderful. We’ve been careful not to abuse that trust.”

Hao Feng as the Playwright, Jessika Van as the Maiden, and Reggie Yip as the Maid. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

The play’s large cast encompasses Los Angeles-area theater professionals, CalArts second-year MFA students, musicians, and a luminary of China’s kunqu opera: singer Luo Chenxue of the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, as the Opera Singer. CalArts alumna Aubree Lynn designed the sets. Costumes are by E.B. Brooks, and lighting is by Christopher Kuhl; both have extensive credits in regional and local theater.

Nightwalk, says Phillip Bloom, the June and Simon K. C. Li Curator of the Chinese Garden and director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies, is “a perfect expression of one of our Chinese Garden’s primary missions—to inspire creative expression that is rooted in the past but speaks to the present.” Bloom notes that Nightwalk draws on both the operatic traditions of Ming-dynasty China and the early history of The Huntington, “but does so to treat universal concerns with art, love, and borders—particularly the seeming borders between times, cultures, and realities.”

Playwright Stan Lai in the Chinese Garden at The Huntington. Photo by Angel Origgi. CalArts Center for New Performance.

For Lai, the concept of The Huntington “in its entirety” is inspirational. “It’s like a collection of beautiful things in its own unique configuration,” he says. The Chinese Garden “has a real life of its own, a real character, a real soul of its own. The pavilions and the bridges are so beautifully conceived to be unique, and yet they fit into the whole. I guess that’s the philosophy of the Chinese cosmology and just the whole outlook of the universe: the harmony of everything, but also the diversity of everything.”

Lynne Heffley is a freelance writer and editor based in South Pasadena, Calif.

Hungering for Power

James Gillray, The Plumb-Pudding in Danger–or–State Epicures Taking un Petit Souper, 1805, London. This caricature depicts the imperial powers of Britain and France, represented here by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Emperor Napoleon, carving the globe between them and preparing to devour it. Fittingly, the subtitle notes, “‘the great Globe itself, and all which it inherit’ is too small to satisfy such insatiable appetites.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Many today are familiar with Ireland’s Great Potato Famine, the ecological and social calamity (exacerbated by misguided British policies) that resulted in mass starvation and an exodus of immigrants to the United States in the 1840s. What is considerably less well known is just how prominently hunger, food shortages, and other problems related to food and drink figured in earlier Atlantic history, from the first colonization attempts in America to the upheavals of the Age of Revolutions. While the leading European powers eagerly sought to consume or capitalize on the abundant natural resources of their newly acquired territories, those who actually labored on the frontiers of empire often faced much hardship and suffering.

Starvation was nearly the downfall of Jamestown and Plymouth as ill-prepared settlers struggled to survive, in the process alienating the Native people with their demands for corn. During the 1730s, a severe drought in Antigua caused enslaved African workers to endure famine; amidst rumors of a planned slave revolt, their well-fed masters resorted to a campaign of terror to reassert their dominance. When the American Revolution disrupted Northern food shipments to the West Indies, hungry slaves once again threatened resistance, prompting sugar planters to cling more tightly to imperial protection. In the 1780s, weather disruptions caused by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano resulted in crop failures across the western hemisphere; the ensuing bread shortages sparked the peasant protests that culminated in the French Revolution. Whatever the specific situation, controlling access to food and drink was critical to controlling populations, both within European nations and in their colonies abroad.

To investigate the historical contexts and significance of food in the early modern period, we are convening a conference, “Empowering Appetites: The Political Economy & Culture of Food in the Early Atlantic,” to be held Oct. 12–13, 2018 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall.

Nicolao Visscher, map entitled Orbis Terrarum Nova et Accuratissima Tabula, 1658, Amsterdam. This image includes the depiction of a procession of enslaved Africans delivering America’s bounty to the English king. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

As we will discuss in the opening session, “The Politics of Food,” throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, possession of bountiful, high-quality foods served as a key signifier of personal status as well as a vital measure of national prosperity. Contrariwise, any form of dearth could quickly undermine social order and contribute to internal and external strife. Settlers, merchants, and government officials assessed and debated how to address the interconnected problems of preventing hunger and managing food supplies that often reverberated across the Atlantic world—from Jamaica to Quebec to Sierra Leone.

The imperative to ensure sufficient, reliable sustenance and thereby minimize social unrest prompted efforts to streamline the distribution of provisions, agricultural innovations to increase and diversify food production, and experimental methods to regulate the diets of such varied groups as soldiers, sailors, slaves, prisoners, and the poor. However, as speakers in the following session, “Provisioning Empire,” will address, these priorities were complicated by factors such as overreliance on imported provisions, wars, demographic shifts, health crises, and natural disasters.

At the same time, colonial and metropolitan elites tended to prioritize their immediate self-interest over the general welfare, profiteering when possible, while always maintaining their own extravagant levels of consumption. Disparities such as these, especially in times of crisis, in turn, gave rise to popular protests that imperial powers strove to quell.

As speakers in the session “(Mis)managing Food Supplies” will highlight, misunderstandings, disagreements, and even violent clashes could stem from the different values and meanings that various people attached to particular foods, especially if there was any threat of scarcity. But even apart from times of crisis, procuring, cooking, and consuming food and drink crucially shaped a range of both intimate and geopolitical relationships in the early modern period. Papers in the final session, “Changing Appetites: Cultural Meanings of Food,” will explore how encounters among Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans were mediated through eating and drinking, such as in gift-giving or trading of edibles, transfers of culinary knowledge, retentions or adaptations of foodways, and, perhaps most important, in the cultural rituals associated with sharing meals and eating (or avoiding) certain ingredients or beverages.

James Gillray, A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, London, 1792. This satirical image of an obese George, Prince of Wales and later King George IV, evokes the indulgence of the metropolitan elite during the late 18th century. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

By bringing together historians, historical geographers, and literary scholars at The Huntington, we expect a lively interdisciplinary conversation focused on the rhetoric and realities surrounding the contested politics of food. “Empowering Appetites” will give us an opportunity to reflect on the existing scholarship in order to generate new questions about the many ways in which social and cultural relations were mediated through the manipulation of food supplies, and what those interactions reveal about changing power dynamics throughout the greater Atlantic World. Ultimately, by critically examining neglected aspects of the increasingly globalized appetites that developed during this period, we hope to emphasize their enduring legacies.

You can read more about the conference program on The Huntington’s website.

Jennifer L. Anderson is associate professor of History at Stony Brook University, located on Long Island, New York. She is the author of Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America (Harvard Univ. Press, 2012). More recently, her article “A Laudable Spirit of Enterprise: Re-Negotiating Land, Natural Resources, and Power on Post-Revolutionary Long Island,” Early American Studies (Spring 2015), received the John M. Murrin Prize.

Anya Zilberstein is associate professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal. Her first venture into food history, “Inured to Empire: Wild Rice and Climate Change,” William & Mary Quarterly (January 2015), was awarded the Sophie Coe Essay Prize by the Oxford Symposium on Food History. Her recent book, A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America (Oxford University Press, Fall 2016) received the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize.

Architects of a Golden Age

Edward Warren Hoak (1901–1978), chief designer, Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, ca. 1935. John Parkinson (1861–1935) and Donald Parkinson (1895–1945), architects. Charcoal on tracing paper, 16 x 29 5/8 inches. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Between World War I and World War II, Los Angeles experienced rapid growth, attracting new, talented architects both locally and from other parts of the U.S. The exhibition “Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection,” opening in the West Hall of the Library on Oct. 6, captures this innovative period in 21 original drawings and plans. (The show continues through Jan. 21, 2019.)

The exhibition marks the first general survey of this collection. Started around 1978, the collection coincided with a preservation movement launched in response to the threat that redevelopment posed to major Los Angeles buildings.

Roger Hayward (1899–1979), renderer, Los Angeles Stock Exchange, façade, ca. 1929. Samuel E. Lunden (1897–1995), architect, John Parkinson (1861–1935) and Donald Parkinson (1895–1945), consulting architects. Watercolor over graphite on illustration board, 39 x 25 1/2 inches. © Courtesy of Dr. James and Mrs. Miriam Kramer, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“Dozens of significant buildings fell to the wrecking ball, and the downtown skyline was forever changed,” says Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture and photography at The Huntington and curator of the exhibition. “The curators at The Huntington sought out and salvaged as much of the architectural record as possible.”

Through “Architects of a Golden Age,” visitors can discover the people who created elegant, powerful, whimsical, and iconic buildings in Los Angeles in the early to mid-20th century. The visitor may recognize the work of Wallace Neff, whose Spanish- and Mediterranean-style residences exerted a strong influence on architects of Southern California homes. The names of some of the other architects represented in the exhibition have faded from general consciousness, even though their buildings may be well known landmarks that still stand.

Roger Hayward (1899–1979), renderer, Los Angeles Stock Exchange, interior of trading room floor, ca. 1929. Samuel E. Lunden (1897–1995), architect, John Parkinson (1861–1935) and Donald Parkinson (1895–1945), consulting architects. Watercolor over graphite on illustration board, 25 1/2 x 39 inches. © Courtesy of Dr. James and Mrs. Miriam Kramer, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For example, a charcoal rendering of Union Station’s facade represents the work of Edward Warren Hoak; he spent countless hours refining such details as the clock tower, doors, arcades, and exterior ornamentation of the Mission revival-style Los Angeles icon.

Among the most striking images in the exhibition are two watercolors of the Stock Exchange by Roger Hayward: the first depicts the towering exterior of the 12-story granite building, designed by Samuel E. Lunden; the second, the Exchange’s vast trading floor, featuring Native American and Near East motifs, designed by Julian Ellsworth Garnsey. The preserved structure on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles now houses a popular, four-level nightclub. Lunden made many other contributions to the city’s built environment, including USC’s Doheny Library and the 1928 wing of the Biltmore Hotel.

Erle Webster (1898–1971) and Adrian Wilson (1898-1988), architects, Buildings for Mr. You Chung Hong, Los Angeles Chinatown, East elevation facing Broadway, ca. 1936–37. Colored pencil and pastel on tracing paper, 17 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches. © Courtesy of Jane Wilson Higley, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In the early 1930s, Chinese community leaders decided to rebuild Chinatown in a new location, the old site having been seized for the construction of Union Station. Eminent immigration attorney You Chung Hong was part of a coalition of business owners that hired Adrian Wilson and Erle Webster to create designs that blended traditional Chinese architecture with American influences. Three exhibition items show such structures—including the East Gate or Gate of Maternal Virtue—and neon lighting enhancing curved rooflines and octagonal windows.

Developer A.R. Fraser envisioned the world’s largest pleasure pier, extending 1,000 feet into the ocean in Santa Monica. He contracted architects A.W. Eager and Frank Eager to design a dancing pavilion for the extravaganza. An ink drawing in the exhibition preserves their ornate, Islamic-revival-style concept.

Eager & Eager, Architects, Dancing Pavilion to be Constructed on Fraser’s Pier, Santa Monica, Cal., East Elevation, 1910. Ink on tracing cloth, 32 3/4 x 47 1/2 inches. © Courtesy of Donald and Sally Kubly, on behalf of Eager & Eager, Architects, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A.W. Eager, who happens to be curator Erin Chase’s great-great-grandfather, also designed the historic O’Melveny House in Hancock Park and the Raymond Hotel in South Pasadena. As a child, Chase viewed drawings by him in her great-grandmother’s garage at just about the time that The Huntington was negotiating with the family about acquiring his papers.

The Wallace Neff most people know is seen in his elevation drawing of the Libbey Stables on the Ojai estate of glass tycoon Edward Drummond Libbey. Another Neff design, his Airform house, never built, for film producer Manuel Reachi, may come as a surprise. Neff addressed the housing shortage during and after World War II with this new construction method of inflating a balloon over a slab foundation and spraying it with concrete. The so-called “bubble houses” proved more popular in Third-World countries than in the U.S.—though one still exists in Pasadena.

Elizabeth Calovich (active ca. 1945), renderer, Airform residence for Manuel Reachi, Ensenada, Mexico, ca. 1945. Wallace Neff (1895–1982), architect. Matte opaque paint on cardboard, 10 5/8 x 17 5/8 inches. © Courtesy of Mr. Arthur M. McNally Neff, on behalf of Wallace Neff, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“No architectural precedent restrained the designers working here,” observes Chase. “The between-the-wars period was ripe for trying new things. The clients, sometimes driven by commercial considerations, wanted something different.”

All of the exhibition works were produced by hand on paper, in contrast to today, when renderings are, for the most part, produced by computer. A remarkable pool of architects thus made individual expressions of their designs—creating what viewers can now appreciate as the artifacts of a golden age.

“Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection” is made possible by the Robert F. Erburu Exhibition Endowment and the Tracy H. and Kenneth S. McCormick Endowment for the Study of Architecture and Design.

Spotify Playlist: “Architects of a Golden Age.” A free Spotify account is required to access this playlist, a musical companion to the “Architects of a Golden Age” exhibition inspired by architecture and the golden state of California. Enjoy the sounds and share the playlist with your friends.

You can watch an interview of Erin Chase and learn more about the exhibition on YouTube.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Artist Carolina Caycedo

Carolina Caycedo stands in front of the presentation screens on which she has arranged black-and-white photographic copies gathered from her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

In March 2018, The Huntington announced that it was partnering with East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) for the third year of The Huntington’s /five initiative, inviting noted Los Angeles artists Carolina Caycedo and Mario Ybarra Jr. to create new work in response to The Huntington’s collections around the theme of Identity. The project will culminate in an exhibition that will be on view at The Huntington from Nov. 10, 2018 to Feb. 25, 2019. Carribean Fragoza, a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California, focuses in this post on Carolina Caycedo.

“Qhip nayr uñtasis sarnaqapxañani” is an aphorism of the Aymara people, an indigenous nation that spans Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The saying, which roughly translates to “looking back to walk forth,” has served artist Carolina Caycedo as a guiding mantra as she works on her installation pieces for this year’s /five artist residency. Instead of relegating history to a graveyard of the obsolete, Caycedo sees the past, including our deceased ancestors, as existing constantly in the present.

For a segment in Caycedo’s video, dancers drape their bodies over reading tables in the Ahmanson Reading Room. Photo by Kate Lain.

In fact, she sees the past as an active entity that can transform us and the way we perceive reality. “The past is a rebel agent that haunts any certainty of our dominion,” proposes Caycedo, for whom history is never over. The dead remain present to remind us of who we are.

Caycedo’s video installation, a central piece in her project, features performances of hauntings in which dancers evoke the American history of colonization in gardens, galleries, and library reading rooms at The Huntington. The video is accompanied by a presentation screen that consists of three large upright panels that display images and text from Caycedo’s research at The Huntington and beyond.

Dancers move as if entranced on the rocks of a waterfall in The Huntington’s Japanese Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Choreographed by dance artist Marina Magalhães and shot by videographer David de Rozas, the video is centered on brown, black, and queer bodies as they interrupt the pristine spaces of The Huntington in a series of choreographed and improvised movements. The dancers were guided by a few instructions, informed by rituals of work—such as the repetitive actions of tilling the land—and by rituals of spiritual possession.

As the dancers cast themselves over reading tables, for example, Caycedo privileges female bodies, queer bodies, and bodies of color as sources of knowledge more significant than books. In a video segment, the dancers drape their bodies over reading tables in the Ahmanson Reading Room, rolling and stretching sensuously beneath the lit lamps.  “Bodies illuminate, not the books,” says Caycedo, as she presses viewers to alter their way of seeing and learning so that it includes sensuality.

Choreographed by dance artist Marina Magalhães and shot by videographer David de Rozas, Caycedo’s video is centered on brown, black, and queer bodies as they interrupt such pristine spaces at The Huntington as the North Vista. Photo by Kate Lain.

The dancers are dressed in rich marigold colors that are traditionally associated with Oxúm, the Afro-Brazilian goddess of fresh water, beauty, luxury, fertility, and sexuality. Caycedo evokes Oxúm again on the rocks of a garden waterfall, as the dancers admire their bodies and move as if entranced by their individual and collective sensuality.

Most notably, the dancers sustain their gaze at the camera. “The gaze of the dancers, or phantoms, is a way to hold the viewer accountable,” says Caycedo, something that she feels is too often missing in history and art. She notes that contemporary dancers are usually expected to perform without ever looking at their audiences, consequently disconnecting the performer from the viewer. For Caycedo, this is a lost opportunity. “There is potential in the gaze. It can shift one’s attention, and the possibility for empathy can exist.”

Caycedo, in her studio, attaching a photographic copy gathered from her research to a presentation screen. Photo by Kate Lain.

While Caycedo’s video performances of hauntings aim to challenge fixed notions of reality and history, her presentation screens continue to propel the viewer into further inquiry. She arranges black-and-white photographic copies or transcribed texts and images gathered from her research onto black display screens, where they appear like constellations of stars set in the darkness of space. Inspired by the Mnemosyne Atlas of German art historian and cultural theorist Aby Warburg (1866–1929), Caycedo’s research images are arranged as a montage or collage that allows viewers to create their own endlessly renewed associative maps of meaning. Like the ancients who assigned characters and stories to arbitrary sets of stars, Caycedo’s Mnemosyne incites viewers to stray away from doctrines explaining phenomena by their ends or purposes to construct narratives of their own.

Dancers embrace in front of the Moon Bridge in The Huntington’s Japanese Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Caycedo notes, however, that despite the educational purpose of museums, galleries, libraries, and archives, “they do not necessarily invite you to view the past with a critical eye.” She adds that, rather than inspiring inquiry or engagement, Western traditions often organized information in ways that made everything seem clear and certain. This is precisely what Caycedo’s project aims to subvert.

Carribean Fragoza is a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California.

Project Blue Boy

Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy (ca. 1770) in normal light photography. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In an exciting “first” for The Huntington, visitors this fall will be able to watch and learn about the conservation treatment of Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic masterpiece The Blue Boy through a special installation in the Huntington Art Gallery that opens on September 22.

Project Blue Boy,” on view in the Thornton Portrait Gallery, will give visitors a fascinating glimpse into the technical processes carried out by senior paintings conservator Christina O’Connell as she works on the painting in public view in the gallery. (See below for a schedule of O’Connell’s gallery hours.) A special satellite conservation lab will be set up adjacent to the wall where the painting normally hangs. Surrounding displays, some interactive, will shed light on the famed painting’s history, mysteries, and artistic virtues as well as offer details about the conservation process. Tools of the conservator’s trade will be showcased, and specially trained docents will provide additional information.

Digital X-radiography shows a dog previously revealed in a 1994 X-ray. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The most popular painting at The Huntington, The Blue Boy has been on display almost continuously since it was acquired by Henry Huntington in 1921; and, for that reason, there have been few opportunities for conservation study or treatment. “The most recent conservation treatments have mainly involved adding new layers of varnish as temporary solutions to keep The Blue Boy on view as much as possible,” says O’Connell. “The original colors now appear hazy and dull, and many of the details are obscured.” There are also several areas where the paint is beginning to lift and flake, and the canvas is separating from its support lining. These issues and more will be addressed by the conservation treatment.

For the first three to four months of the exhibition, O’Connell will work several days a week in the gallery, performing such painstaking processes as paint stabilization, surface cleaning, and removal of non-original varnish and overpaint. The painting then will go off view for another three to four months for structural work on the canvas and application of varnish. Once these steps are complete, The Blue Boy will return to the gallery, where visitors can watch the final stages of the conservation process until the close of the exhibition in September 2019.

Infrared reflectography. Data collected during technical analysis of the painting last fall helped inform the conservation treatment plan. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Thornton Portrait Gallery, the room where The Blue Boy and other grand manner portraits are displayed, will be closed until Sept. 21, 2018 for the “Project Blue Boy” installation.

In-Gallery Work Schedule

Senior paintings conservator Christina O’Connell will conduct in-gallery conservation treatment on The Blue Boy on the following schedule.

First in-gallery period (Sept. 22, 2018–January 2019, estimated):
Opening day, Sept. 22, 10 a.m.–noon
Every Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.–noon and 2–4 p.m.
First Sunday of each month, 2–4 p.m.

Second in-gallery period (Summer 2019, estimated)
A similar schedule to the above will be in place.

Note that the in-gallery work schedule is subject to change; check for updates on The Huntington’s online calendar.

Conservation of The Blue Boy is funded by a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project. Additional generous support for this project is provided by the Getty Foundation, Kim and Ginger Caldwell, Friends of Heritage Preservation, and Haag-Streit USA.

You can learn more about “Project Blue Boy” on The Huntington’s website.

And you can watch a video about “Project Blue Boy” on YouTube.

Thea M. Page is the director of marketing communications at The Huntington.

Turning Points in the Civil War

Battle of Gettysburg, repulse of Pickett’s charge by Thure de Thulstrupo (1849–1930), L. Prang & Co., Boston (Mass.), 1887. Color printed lithograph, overall 21 7/8 x 28 in. (55.56 x 71.12 cm). Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The American Civil War witnessed dramatic shifts of momentum. As armies contended for supremacy on the battlefield, their successes and failures profoundly shaped politics and civilian morale on the home fronts. For more than 150 years, those who have written about the conflict—from members of the wartime generation to recent historians—have argued about when and where the war turned decisively toward United States triumph. These debates, in turn, have sparked lively discussion in a reading public eager to identify the war’s most important events.

Candidates put forward as decisive moments include Ulysses S. Grant’s capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, the battle of Shiloh, George B. McClellan’s victory at Antietam, George G. Meade’s repulse of Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, William Tecumseh Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, and George H. Thomas’s rout of the Army of Tennessee at Nashville. Titles of books such as Shiloh: The Battle that Changed the Civil War and Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam—The Battle That Changed the Course of the Civil War underscore a widespread affinity for turning points.

“This Reminds Me of a Little Joke,” Harper’s Weekly. New York: Harper’s Magazine Co., September 17, 1864. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Gettysburg looms largest in the public imagination as the war’s grand turning point, the “high water mark of the Confederacy” that ended any realistic hope for southern independence and pointed inexorably toward Appomattox. Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels, translated to the screen in the film Gettysburg in 1993, feeds into the notion of the battle’s importance. Shaara tips his hand in this regard early in the novel. As the armies march toward their collision in Pennsylvania, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, seeking to galvanize his men, observes: “I think if we lose this fight the war will be over.”

Joan Waugh and Gary W. Gallagher are convening a two-day conference on September 14-15 to address “Turning Points in the Civil War.” Their roster of leading scholars in the field takes a spacious approach to the topic, considering political and social events as well as prominent military operations. The speakers will illuminate the range, and potential for disagreement, inherent in any search for historical turning points.

Richard Carwardine, David W. Blight, and J. Matthew Gallman will explore politics, with an emphasis on the bitterly contested election of 1864. Few presidential canvasses have wielded greater impact, as Republican success guaranteed continuation of the war to suppress the slaveholders’ rebellion and ended any doubts about whether emancipation would accompany Union triumph.

The Capture of Vicksburg. Harper’s Weekly. New York: Harper’s Magazine Co., 1863. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Harold Holzer, Caroline E. Janney, and Elizabeth R. Varon also take up nonmilitary subjects, extending from press coverage of the New York City draft riots of July 1863 to the decision to establish a system of national cemeteries and postwar reactions to Reconstruction legislation. Montgomery Meigs and James Longstreet, prominent generals during the war, stand at the center of the last two of those subjects.

The remaining speakers will explore military dimensions of the conflict. Ari Kelman trains his analytical lens on the West and how Native Americans figured in the expanding war. Gallagher and Stephen Cushman highlight McClellan’s 1862 campaign against Richmond that culminated in the Seven Days battles, an operation that far exceeded in importance many more famous ones. Waugh and Ronald C. White take up the battles of Vicksburg and the Wilderness, each of which resonated powerfully on both home fronts. Gallagher and Waugh bring the conference to a close with a consideration of just how Gettysburg should fit into any assessment of great turning points.

“Turning Points in the Civil War” will be the sixth conference devoted to the conflict to be held at the Huntington since 1999, with Waugh co-convening all of them and Gallagher the last five.   

You can read more about the conference program on The Huntington’s website.

Joan Waugh is professor of history at UCLA.

Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War, emeritus, at the University of Virginia.

Abundant Harvest

Victor Gail (right) and his partner, Thomas Oxford, in 2001. Photo by Hal Nelson.

A generous bequest from Long Beach art collector Victor Gail (1929–2014) has greatly enhanced The Huntington’s American decorative arts collection while underwriting its care and interpretation. Gail’s $1.6 million gift, received this past spring, has endowed the position of the Gail-Oxford Curator of American Decorative Arts. In addition, the bequest included more than 130 works of art and funding for a handbook documenting the collection.

Gail and his life partner, Thomas Oxford, who predeceased him in 2008, spent five decades amassing one of the finest collections of early American decorative arts in Southern California. They both wanted to find a permanent home for their collection where the public could enjoy the beauty of the objects and learn from them about the nation’s past. Recognizing The Huntington’s growing commitment to American art and cultural history, the pair decided to give key pieces of their collection to the institution.

Benjamin Hill (1617–about 1670), Lantern clock, about 1650, England. Brass, steel, and rope, 
14 ¾ x 5 ¾ x 5 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The gift includes important examples of 18th- and 19th-century American furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork. Among the highlights are a brass lantern clock from 1650; a high chest of drawers from 1710; two 17th-century needlework designs; and a 1752 portrait by John Wollaston, an itinerant painter who worked in the North American colonies.

“We are delighted to recognize Tom and Victor’s generous gift by naming this curatorship in their honor,” said Catherine Hess, interim director of the Art Collections. “I also want to recognize the role of Hal Nelson in securing this gift. Hal’s long-standing friendship with the collectors and his stewardship of their collection strengthened their engagement with The Huntington.” Nelson served as curator of decorative arts at The Huntington from 2009 until his retirement in 2017.

High chest of drawers, about 1710, possibly New York. Walnut, yellow pine, eastern white pine, burl ash veneer, and brass, 57 ¼ x 39 x 20 ½ in.

Visitors can see a selection of objects from the Gail-Oxford Collection on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, in a gallery named for the donors.

In celebration of Victor Gail’s bequest, The Huntington has published the handbook Abundant Harvest: Selections from the Gail-Oxford Collection of American Decorative Arts at The Huntington. Written by Hal Nelson, former curator of decorative arts at The Huntington, it provides an overview of this notable collection and highlights 64 of the most significant objects.

Abundant Harvest: Selections from the Gail-Oxford Collection of American Decorative Arts at The Huntington. Written by Hal Nelson, former curator of decorative arts at The Huntington.

Abundant Harvest (144 pages, paper bound; $19.95) is available in the Huntington Store or online at thehuntingtonstore.org

Lisa Blackburn is senior editor and special projects manager in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Sustainable Luxury

Golden Lily by John Henry Dearle (British, 1859–1932), for Morris & Co., undated. Distemper on paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Have you ever wondered how design patterns are invented and how the manufacturing process of design objects works?

William Morris (1834–1896) dedicated his life to answering these questions. He founded Morris & Co. in 1861 as a response to capitalistic production methods introduced by the industrial revolution. His company created handcrafted decorative objects with the purpose of balancing sustainability and good quality, aesthetic appeal and reasonable prices, humane working conditions and mass production.

The exhibition “Sustainable Luxury: Morris & Co. Textiles and Wallpapers from The Huntington’s Art Collections,” on view in the Huntington Art Gallery’s Works on Paper Room through November 12, comprises 18 drawings, wallpapers, and textiles created by Morris and his long-time collaborator John Henry Dearle, selected from The Huntington’s holdings of Morris & Co. materials.

Among the most successful items sold by Morris & Co. were wallpapers decorated with patterns inspired by nature. In 19th-century Britain, wallpapers were the chief wall decorations for domestic interiors, but almost all were stylistically undeveloped, merely simulating the effect of fabric coverings that only the very rich could afford. In contrast, the Morris & Co. wallpaper Golden Lily, designed by Dearle, shows the originality of the firm’s designs. It features a variety of flowering plants with pink, yellow, and blue flowers, as well as green and blue foliage, on a dark-green ground covered with green dots. This type of design enriched the wall surface, giving it depth, movement, and vitality.

Seaweed by John Henry Dearle (British, 1859–1932), for Morris & Co., ca. 1900. Watercolor and graphite on paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Morris & Co. revolutionized not only the design of patterns but also the making of wallpapers. After the industrial revolution, the manufacturing process in England was dominated by machines and chemicals, which enabled a faster and more efficient workflow but lowered the quality of the products. William Morris rediscovered and employed ancient techniques, such as block printing and natural dying, to achieve better designs and more sustainable products.

A considerable number of Morris & Co.’s two-dimensional designs were used for wallpapers and printed textiles as well, often employing the same woodblock. Drawings made by hand were the basis upon which all design patterns were first invented. Once the drawing was ready, the outlines of it were cut from the woodblock. For most of the wallpapers and printed textiles, this handmade printing process resulted in higher quality products than could be achieved at the time with machine-printing techniques.

Seaweed is an example of the kind of drawings used at Morris & Co. to invent a pattern design. The details of the plant and its flowers are all meticulously illustrated in the drawing. This accurate representation of the pattern on paper was essential to realize the final design.

Loddon by William Morris (British, 1834–1896), ca. 1884. Ink and wash on paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Another example of a drawing used to invent a pattern design is Loddon. It was probably used to train apprentices in the printing workshops or as an aid for woodblock-cutters, providing them with greater clarity of details. The four different shapes of the flowers are represented separately and later assembled to form the pattern. Loddon shows how much attention was paid to every single step in the manufacturing process.

Woven textiles represented another important group of items produced by Morris & Co.

By early 1877, Morris established his own weaving workshop with the help of Louis Bazin, a professional silk weaver from Lyons. The textiles produced in the workshop were woven on a Jacquard loom that Bazin had brought over with him from France. (On Jacquard looms, the designs to be woven were controlled by chains of replaceable punched cards.)

Fox and Grape by John Henry Dearle (British, 1859–1932), for Morris & Co., ca. 1898.
Hand-loom jacquard woven wool. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The design of the textile Fox and Grape shows the animals facing one another at intervals along sets of interlocking ogees (pointed arches). Once the initial design on paper was completed, it was enlarged onto graph paper so that punched cards could be made for the Jacquard looms. The final product was an exquisite fabric used to furnish interiors.

Many Morris & Co. products not only sold very well but also helped establish English design internationally and shaped the taste of the English upper and middle class. You will find more of these beautiful wallpapers and textiles in the exhibition. Come see for yourself the exquisite quality of Dearle’s and Morris’s drawings and learn more about the process of creating handmade productions at Morris & Co.

Alice Klose is an art historian and the guest curator of the exhibition “Sustainable Luxury: Morris & Co. Textiles and Wallpapers from The Huntington’s Art Collections.”

Recent Lectures: April 17–August 16, 2018

Home to gorgeous gardens, spectacular art, and stunning rare books and manuscripts, The Huntington also offers an impressive slate of lectures and conferences on topics and themes related to its collections. Below are audio recordings of 12 recent lectures.

Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai‘i (August 16, 2018)
Daniel Lewis, the Dibner Senior Curator of the History of Science at The Huntington, discusses his new book about the birds of Hawaii. Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai‘i takes readers on a thousand-year journey as it explores the state’s magnificent birds, touching on topics ranging from the concept of belonging to the work of pioneering bird conservationists.

 

Pasadena Busch Gardens: Adolphus Busch’s Early Amusement Park (July 29, 2018)
When German brewing magnate Adolphus Busch purchased a mansion on Pasadena’s “Millionaires’ Row” in 1904, he quickly bought up some 60 additional acres stretching down to the bottom of Arroyo Seco and developed it into a lushly landscaped pearl. Busch Gardens, which opened to the public in 1906, featured terraced hillsides, waterfalls and ponds, and “fairy scenes” drawn from tales of the Brothers Grimm. Local historian Ann Scheid gives a fascinating lecture about this once-famous theme park, remnants of which can still be glimpsed around the neighborhood where it once stood.

 

Remembering the Reformation (May 23, 2018)
Alexandra Walsham, professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge, explores how the English Reformation was remembered, forgotten, contested, and reinvented between 1530 and 1700 and discusses the enduring legacies that these processes have left in more recent cultural memory.

 

Silk, Slaves and Stupas (May 20, 2018)
Author Susan Whitfield (Silk, Slaves and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road) is joined by renowned theater director Peter Sellars for a fascinating conversation about the diversity of peoples and cultures that traveled the ancient trade routes of Afro-Eurasia.

 

The Search for Perfection in an Imperfect World (May 17, 2018)
Best-selling author Simon Winchester (The Professor and the Madman; The Men Who United the States) explores the origins of “precision” and the invisible role it plays, for good or for ill, in the way we live our lives. The lecture is drawn from his new book, The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World.

 

The Frankenstein Challenge (May 10, 2018)
David Baltimore, President Emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, discusses the challenge of globally controlling technology when potentially 200 different jurisdictions might be involved.

 

Reconstructing the Mindscape of a 17th-Century Korean Literati Garden: Garden of Seyeonjeong (May 8, 2018)
Art historian Katharina I-Bon Suh of the Seoul National University discusses how the Garden of Seyeonjeong’s design and layout served practical purposes but also alluded to philosophical metaphors and fantastical worlds in this East Asian Garden Lecture.

 

California Plants (May 6, 2018)
Author Matt Ritter, professor of botany at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, takes readers on a visual “tour” through the state’s most iconic flora in a lecture based on his new book, California Plants.

 

Designing with Palms (May 5, 2018)
Jason Dewees discusses how the sensory appeal of palms, along with their beautiful diversity, earn them a place in well-designed gardens.

 

Every Picture Tells a Story (April 25, 2018)
Richard White uses images shot by landscape photographer Jesse White to explore California’s story.

 

Abraham Lincoln’s Diary (April 19, 2018)
Ronald White examines Lincoln’s overlooked notes to himself, revealing new and surprising aspects of America’s greatest president.

 

Representations of the Garden of Solitary Delight (April 17, 2018)
Carol Brash examines four different representations of the Garden of Solitary Delight (Dule yuan), built in the 11th century by scholar-official Sima Guang.

Find more audio recordings of Huntington lectures and conferences on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Artist Mario Ybarra Jr.

Artist Mario Ybarra Jr. at work. Photo by Kate Lain.

In March 2018, The Huntington announced that it was partnering with East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) for the third year of The Huntington’s /five initiative, inviting noted Los Angeles artists Carolina Caycedo and Mario Ybarra Jr. to create new work in response to The Huntington’s collections around the theme of Identity. The project will culminate in an exhibition that will be on view at The Huntington from Nov. 10, 2018 to Feb. 25, 2019. Carribean Fragoza, a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California, focuses in this post on Mario Ybarra Jr.

The summer day simmered. As artist Mario Ybarra Jr., his assistant Jennifer Vanegas, and I strolled through the gardens under the shade of carefully trimmed foliage, steam rose from the warm, dark earth underfoot. Sweat beaded on our faces and dampened our shirts as we walked along the well-demarcated paths, but then more briskly through the rougher back trails usually used by groundskeepers. Finally, we arrived at the Chinese Garden. Almost in unison, we slumped on a shaded bench overlooking a koi-filled pond like a trio of wilting flowers laid out to dry—an artist, his assistant, and a writer.

Ybarra (left) and Sergio Teran (right) in Teran’s print studio at Cerritos College. Photo by Kate Lain.

Despite our look of repose, or perhaps exhaustion, our true work was about to begin.

Ybarra began by acknowledging the moment. “We’re not the guy planting the trees—the brown person you’re most likely to see in places like this. But we’re cultural workers, and right now, it’s our job to sit under the trees and think deeply. That’s work, too.”

Indeed, Ybarra has been thinking extensively about the meaning of work, particularly in arts professions and for people of color. For this year’s /five residency, Ybarra and Carolina Caycedo have been taking a careful look at the labor, mainly by people of color, that built Los Angeles and the American West. The economies of culture in the arts world and the film and TV industries have played essential roles in the shaping of Greater Los Angeles, as have narratives about places and people. Hollywood, for example, has tirelessly reinforced racial stereotypes, casting Latinos primarily as maids, gardeners, and criminals. But Ybarra is looking to push beyond these limited perspectives that insist on seeing brown and black bodies almost exclusively as sources of labor rather than as intellectual or cultural producers.

Ybarra holds a printing plate etched with his self-portrait. It was inspired by small, intimate works by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) and a portrait of Dürer himself by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) that Ybarra viewed at The Huntington. Photo by Kate Lain.

“I’m not trying to put manual labor and my labor into any kind of hierarchy. But I also don’t want to romanticize the blue collar [class], which is where I came from,” says Ybarra, whose relatives worked as longshoremen along the San Pedro and Long Beach ports near his hometown, Wilmington.

While exploring the gardens and the Library collections at The Huntington during the past few months of his residency, Ybarra has considered ancient philosophers and artists—Greek, Roman, and Chinese—and their foundational contributions to Western or Eastern thought. “Where do you think they did all of their deep thinking? Probably while strolling around beautiful gardens like this one. And that’s what we’re doing,” he says.

Ybarra inks a printing plate etched with his self-portrait. Photo by Kate Lain.

As Ybarra revisits the ancients, he is thinking about how he might reinterpret or reappropriate some of those ideas or traditions to reflect his own experience as a Chicano in Greater Los Angeles. Of all the items in The Huntington’s collections of garden plants, books and manuscripts, and works of art, it was small-scale works by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)—and a portrait of Dürer himself by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)—that captivated Ybarra’s attention and stimulated his imagination the most. He was fascinated by how works so small and personal could be so enduring after many centuries and still speak clearly to a viewer today.

“In contemporary art, you see a Chris Burden piece, or a Richard Serra, and they are monumental in size. They take an entire workforce to operate. Dürer’s works are small and intimate. They create a personal headspace for an exhibition. The work can have longevity, meaning, and poetry even if it’s intimate.”

Ybarra adjusts the printer. Photo by Kate Lain.

Ybarra’s turn to traditional forms of art is in sync with his recent return to the humble yet foundational art of drawing by hand (rather than producing gallery-scale installations). The process of drawing has been a way for Ybarra to reflect himself back into The Huntington’s collections. “Drawings are self-reflective. Drawing is also a way of citing the self.”

Ybarra is applying his drawing skills to another process that is entirely new to him—the creation of a series of aquatint etchings. He describes the meticulous and extensive labor of creating the etching wherein the hand drawing is only the initial point of departure. During the course of the summer, he has joined artist and professor Sergio Teran in his print studio at Cerritos College, where, under Teran’s guidance, he has learned the centuries-old process of printmaking. “The movements and gestures are in some ways ritualistic. I’m still learning what they are,” he notes.

Ybarra holds a print of his self-portrait. Photo by Kate Lain.

Select prints, as well as Ybarra’s drawings, will be on view in a November exhibition at The Huntington, alongside work by fellow /five resident artist, Carolina Caycedo.

Carribean Fragoza is a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California.