El Mejor Pintor de Calabazas

¡Es una quesa!Poor Luis Meléndez! Back in the 18th century he poured out his entire frustrated life on canvas after painstaking canvas depicting exactly the texture of Spanish produce, and then what happens? He dies in poverty. The old, old story. For artists at least. Art historians have frequent recourse to their QuicKeys macro that plonks out “he died in poverty.”

It ended on a downbeat, but his life was not wasted: During his productive decades he helped keep the canvas trade alive at least, and now, posthumously, he provides employment to so many worthy souls attached to the business of art: See that guard in the photo above, for instance, who tried to duck behind the pillar bearing the Meléndez poster at LACMA, but whom I captured anyhow. He owes his meal ticket, in part, to the pauper’s labor.

Meléndez, even from his aethereal cloud, helped pay the cable TV bills of the Angeleno plasterers who cunningly made two galleries on the 3rd floor of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building resemble a chamber in an ancient Spanish castillo. Note the pock marks.

Plaster work by Adobe Gillis Co.

Sr Meléndez perhaps does not mind — not now anyways — that he broke his back and went permanently cross-eyed getting the play of light on beaten copper just so, when he considers, up there in the better place he has resided these past two and a half centuries, the gainful employment he has provided the producers of the tie-in publications on sale in the museum shop, and to the manufacturers of the refrigerator magnets bearing images of his exacting arrangements of grapes and gourds, chocolate mixers, pigeons, pears big and little, jellied fruit, boxed nougat, eggplants, glazed honey pots, what appear to be heirloom tomatoes, and whatever else the merry teamsters hauled in from the plots of grateful peasants to leave in heaps in the painter’s unremunerative studio.

Meléndez will pour down blessings upon your head if you visit this rare gathering of his life’s futile work — including one figure: a fine self portrait — which will continue at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until January 3, 2010. More information HERE.


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