On a breezy Sunday afternoon, families, artists and gardeners roam the grounds at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where a different sort of art has cropped up altogether: A potato field grows between two buildings; ailing strawberries are nourished through an elaborate system of IV bags near the main entrance; and a soil- and waste-free “Food Pyramid” made from stacked, repurposed industrial food bins – some growing tomatoes, others, cilantro and jalapeno peppers – will yield all the ingredients for a fish taco feast in November, including the tilapia swimming in a pond at its base.
These playful and provocative art-agriculture hybrids are part of EATLACMA, a year-long collaboration between the museum and the L.A.-based artist collective Fallen Fruit. The group, founded by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young, made its name mapping the public fruit trees on the streets of Los Angeles and hosting community jam-making events and fruit tree “adoptions.” Now, the three artists have brought their investigations of the relationships between food, art, culture and community, to an institution better known for its private galas than its public gardens.
Inside the museum, they’ve “mapped” the permanent collection, using stars to delineate what fruits are in which works (according to Viegener, the apple reigns in popularity, followed by the grape). They’ve also curated a fruit-centric salon, pulling pieces that had mostly been in storage to create a deliciously eclectic mix. Against a backdrop of Fallen Fruit-designed citrus wallpaper (an homage to the former citrus groves on the site), a Marimekko melon textile hangs near Diego Rivera’s “Fruits of the Tree of Life” lithograph, which is next to an Ed Ruscha screenprint of the Hollywood sign, printed with grape and apricot jam.
As befits a group whose events are traditionally free to the public, Fallen Fruit skipped the fancy opening night fete in favor of a Sunday picnic on LACMA’s lawn. “This is how it used to be a hundred years ago,” says Burns, happily surveying the noshing crowd that includes local art luminaries like the Wertheim sisters and Bruce Yonemoto and eco-activist/actor Adrian Grenier. The nature of Fallen Fruit’s events, Burns adds, keeps the people smiling and the vibe sweet. “It’s impossible to argue about fruit.”