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BOOK REVIEW / FAVORITE BOOKS 2008

The natural elements

December 07, 2008|Susan Salter Reynolds

The trees of Los Angeles are irrepressible, even those with lopped limbs and charred trunks. In "Los Angeles Trees: Paintings, Drawings, Filmstills" (Prestel: 128 pp., $60) -- featuring text by Petra Giloy-Hirtz and an essay by Fred Dewey -- artist Lucas Reiner portrays these trees as exuberant, determined and whimsical. This is especially true of Reiner's filmstills, in which the trees exude patience and humor, casting sneaky, leafy shadows across the graffiti and cacophonous signage of L.A.

"I now see Los Angeles differently," Reiner notes, "especially the insistent dedication of nature to grow in spite of the restrictions placed upon it and the forms that result from this. By removing all context and environment from this subject matter, I invite the viewer to focus and meditate on those forces which have shaped ordinary forms in unseen ways."

Reiner never noticed the trees in his hometown until a trip to Michigan in 2001 brought "the power of nature without man" to his attention. When he returned to L.A., he began to draw and paint individual trees, most of them not California natives. He saw their strange shapes as "the result of their interaction with the needs of civilization." We are also, he thought, "marked by civilization."

The result is this collection of fond portraits. No doubt, you will recognize one or two.

-- Susan Salter Reynolds

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