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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is our national day of gratitude and in Los Angeles we can be particularly grateful for the aqueduct that brought us water to boil for morning coffee, not to mention our afternoon brussel sprouts to go with our turkey. Yes, the controversial and indispensible aqueduct engineered in 1913 by William Mulholland to transport water 233 miles from the Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to our little town, which has grown with a seemingly insatiable thirst.

Most people know the story as played out in the movie Chinatown and now, to commemorate the centenary of the aqueduct, artist Rob Reynolds has completed a suite of giant watercolors called "Just Add Water" to hang in the rotunda gallery of the Natural History Museum. Organized for NHM by guest curator Charlotte Eyerman, who has since left LA to become director of the Monterrey Art Museum, the show continues through August 3.

Loosely rendered in watercolor and gouache on sheets of paper that can be as large as are five and a half feet high and seven and a half feet long, Reynolds revisits specific moments in the saga. One painting of a map details the difficult route of the aqueduct from Yosemite to San Pedro with a watery quote by Joan Didion.

 

at131128a.jpg
Rob Reynolds, "Opening," 2013
Watercolor and graphite on paper in artists frame
93" x 68 1/4" (236.9 x 173.4 cm)
© Rob Reynolds / Photo by Robert Wedemeyer


A painting of the moment when the water poured out from the aqueduct in Sylmar also shows the 30,000 spectators who had turned out to see the event.

 

at131128b.jpg
Rob Reynolds, "Photograph of the St. Francis Dam at Capacity," 2013
Watercolor, gouache and graphite on paper in artists frame
68 1/2" x 93" (174 cm x 236.2 cm)
© Rob Reynolds / Photo by Robert Wedemeyer


One painting documents the St. Francis dam before it collapsed due to stress from an over-filled reservoir in 1928, flooding San Francisquito Canyon, killing 472 people and destroying Mulholland's reputation.

South Tufa, Mono Lake at 7:12 a.m., June 18th, 2013 reveals eerie limestone towers after water had been diverted away from the lake and into the aqueduct for decades.

 

at131128c.jpg
Rob Reynolds, "Water and Power Building, 111 N. Hope St., L.A., CA 90012," 2013
Watercolor, and gouache on paper in artists frame
68 1/4" x 92" (173.4 cm x 233.7 cm)
© Rob Reynolds / Photo by Robert Wedemeyer


Water and Power Building, 111 N. Hope St., Los Angeles, CA. 90012 portrays A.C. Martin's modernist masterpiece of public architecture, built in 1965, as the humming symbol of half a century of engineering progress. It also summarizes an inherent problem: Water and Power.

 

at131128d.jpg
Rob Reynolds, "A Glass of Drinking Water," 2013
Watercolor, gouache and ink on paper in artists frame
94" x 68" (238.8 cm x 172.7 cm)
© Rob Reynolds / Photo by Robert Wedemeyer


One painting of a simple glass of water bears the caption, "There it is. Take it," as Mulholland remarked to LA's mayor at the opening of the aqueduct on November 5, 1913.

The show is accompanied by a banner listing the names of thousands of people who worked on the aqueduct between 1900 and 1930 and not just the powerful and wealthy dignitaries.

This artist's focused view is in the rewarding context of a larger exhibition at NHM, Becoming LA, which presents the city's history in all its contradictory, astonishing and entertaining complexity from the indigenous Tongva Indians to Disneyland.

For more information, go to nhm.org.


Banner image: Banner image: Detail from Rob Reynolds' Photograph of the St. Francis Dam at Capacity, 2013; Watercolor, gouache and graphite on paper in artists frame, 68 1/2" x 93" (174 cm x 236.2 cm); © Rob Reynolds / Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

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