We consider fruit to be many things: a subject, an object, and a symbol. Fruit often triggers a childhood memory; it’s emotional, familiar to most everyone on the planet. Everyone has a fruit story, a recollection of eating their first banana, or fig. Many of these are linked to place and family, and many echo a sense of connection with something very primal. more…
Of all foods appearing in art, fruit is the most common. Its aesthetic qualities of color and form attract artists, and these qualities are amplified by the symbolic values fruit has carried for millennia. Allegories of pleasure, danger, good, and evil abound. Across a range of cultures paradise is seen as a garden of fruit trees, but in the Old Testament of the Judaeo-Christian tradition one fruit—commonly depicted as an apple—is forbidden because it bears the knowledge of good and evil. Its counterpart in Greek and Roman art is the grape, which represents pleasure, indulgence, and even delirium in the wine of Bacchus and Dionysius.
The works in this exhibition were selected from the museum’s permanent collection by the artists of Fallen Fruit. In them you can find a hidden cultural history of fruit. Who was eating what? Where? And when? What did it mean to them? Sometimes a symbol of luxury and other times of the ordinary, fruit is easily mistaken for simply a natural object. Selected and hybridized for centuries, fruit is a fusion of man and nature, a cultural object that embodies our collective fears and hopes.
—Fallen Fruit (David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young)
Scroll to the right and click on the exhibit to learn more.
Patterson Beckwith, Untitled (rapid seeing by means of the fixation of movements in the shortest possible time: snapshots), 2006 Chromogenic development print 16 x 20 in. Ralph M. Parsons Fund (M.2009.119.3) One of a series of photographic studies of the banana called Bananas for Molohly-Nagy, these works play on being bananas (for the artist, László Moholy-Nagy). There's an echo of Warhol's banana, as well as Moholy-Nagy's "New Vision," his belief that photography could create a whole new way of seeing the world beyond the capacity of the human eye.
Wynn Bullock, Half-Apple, 1953, printed 1953 Gelatin-silver print 7 1/4 x 8 ½ in. The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin ( M.2008.40.349) This apple is photographically examined in a clinical way, but it's ovary-like parts look suggestive.
Douglas Busch, One Legged Fruit Seller, 1991 Platinum print 18 1/4 x 26 1/4 in. Gift of Lee Franklin (AC1999.257.2.2) Taken in 1991 but reminiscent of 1930s photography, this image reflects nostalgia for an untainted past. The fruit seller, with his one leg, has little more to lose, which is why we might want to trust him.
Jo Ann Callis, Tigger and Apple Pie, 1980s Chromogenic development (Ektacolor) print 9 5/8 x 12 1/4 in. Anonymous gift, Los Angeles, in honor of Robert Sobieszek (M.2005.150.36) As with a sleeping cat, the apple pie is a symbol of domesticity and comfort. The best things in life are simple.
Becky Cohen, Apple Espalier, Potager du Roi, Versailles, 1994-1997 Gelatin-silver print 24 x 24 1/16 in. Gift of Michael Stolper (AC1998.150.3) Espaliered fruit (the process of training through pruning or grafting) doubles the decorative value of fruit trees. The strict formal shapes of the branches contrast against the bursting ripe fruit.
Honoré Daumier, Seule manière de faire poser un enfant avec fruit..., 1847 Lithograph 10 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. Gift of Mr. George Longstreet (M.60.19.2) Fruit might be a symbol of temptation, but this child isn't having it – perhaps he'd prefer candy. Daumier is making a commentary on children, adults and bribery, as well as on the task of the portraitist.
Robert S. Duncanson, Still Life, 1849 Oil on canvas 16 1/4 x 20 3/16 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. ( M.78.98) A display of goodness and sweetness, this 19th century still life also boasts the presence of the valuable pineapple, rare at the time.
Albrecht Dürer, The Virgin with the Pear, 1511 Engraving 6 9/16 x 4 5/8 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Engle (M.69.82.1) There are many images of the Virgin or the Christ child with fruit, perhaps reprising the theme of the garden of Eden - the fruit may represent Christ as the new Adam who has come to redeem the world
Harold Edgerton, .30 Bullet Piercing an Apple, 1964, printed 1985 Internal dye-diffusion transfer print 15 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. Gift of the Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation (AC1996.119.53) In the atomic age the symbol of the apple is blasted by a speeding bullet, suggesting the fast passage of time and also our capacity to control it.
William Eggleston, Untitled, 1970s Chromogenic development print 7 1/8 x 11 in. Gift of Jeffrey Leifer (M.2000.199.2) This still life has a sad tinge. The grapes may be plastic and the glass filled with scotch instead of wine, but this image telegraphs a familiar message in still lifes: that life is fleeting and all pleasures might be ephemeral.
Fallen Fruit (David Burns, Matias Viegener, Austin Young), Fruit Machine, 2010 DVD Courtesy of the artists There are many artistic images of fruit in the world, but very few of these images show people actually eating fruit. Fallen Fruit began Fruit Machine, a series of video portraits, to fill this gap. Teenagers were chosen as subjects because they are on the border between childhood and adulthood, posing questions about maturity or even ripeness. Often self-conscious, they quickly realize that eating fruit on camera is not so simple a task.
Fallen Fruit (David Burns, Matias Viegener, Austin Young), Everyday Object, Picnic Table, 2009 Picnic table 8 ft. x 6 ft. Courtesy of the artists Everyday Objects are a suite of sculptural objects fashioned from a set of domestic items such as cutting boards, aprons, knives, spoons, tote bags and picnic tables. Each is engraved with text “harvested” from comments viewers posted on Fallen Fruit's YouTube channel. The cynical phrases range from “fucked in the head californians” to “dipshit liberals, always looking for a handout.” Everyday Objects pose the cheerful domesticity of the objects against anonymous public cynicism.
Fallen Fruit (David Burns, Matias Viegener, Austin Young), The Fruit of LACMA, 2010 Digital photographic print on matte paper 40 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artists Based on the idea of a performance score, this work describes the ambition to re-organize a museum's collection based on the fruit found in its works of art.
Fallen Fruit (David Burns, Matias Viegener, Austin Young), Public Fruit Wallpaper, Los Angeles, 2010 Wallpaper Ralph M. Parsons Fund Public fruit found on one day in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, arranged into a traditional decorative wallpaper pattern; an index of place and time, with fruit serving as a way to think about what grows, what's eaten, and what goes to waste.
Arshile Gorky, Still Life, circa 1928 Oil on masonite 29 1/2 x 25 1/2 Gift of Dr. E. Jack and Gerry B. Wilcox (M.2009.39) Gorky's still life is almost starting to dissolve, reduced to its essence of color and form. The visual space is flattened to practically just paint on a surface. The fruit becomes just an excuse for color.
Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur; Labrousse Costumes de Différent Pays, 'Marchande de Fruits de Bordeaux', circa 1797 Hand-tinted engraving on paper 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. Costume Council Fund (M.83.190.14) Fruit sellers appear regularly in art and perhaps one of their functions is a question of trust. How can we know the colorful fruit is good?
Yōzō Hamaguchi, Pomegranate, 1958 Mezzotint 11 1/2 x 13 1/4 in. Gift of Estate of Moses and Ruth Helen Lasky, San Francisco at the request of Morelle, Norman, Harlan and Marshall Levine (M.2005.217.13) Pomegranates in Japan have a different resonance than in the west. This image by Yōzō Hamaguchi depicts a bisected pomegranate, seemingly cold, but also open to reveal its structure and inner beauty.
David Hockney, Untitled (gallery and still life), 1989 Facsimile transmission 8 1/4 x 26 in. (20.95 x 66.04 cm) Gift of R. B. Kitaj (AC19126.96.36.199) Fruit became such a commonplace subject in art, especially the still life, that eventually artists had to make jokes about it.
Maija Isola,; Marimekko, Inc., Textile Length, 'Melooni', 1963 Screenprint on cotton 169 1/2 x 54 1/8 in. Gift of Marimekko, Inc. (M.80.38.7) This classic Marimekko print uses the melon to create a happy effect. With the exception of the apple in the Garden of Eden, the symbolic value of fruit in art is always positive, usually a symbol of goodness, bounty, and innocence.
Kaigyokusai (School of), Bowl with Pomegranates, late 19th-early 20th c. Ivory with sumi fruit: 1 3/8 x 1 5/16 x 15/16 in.; bowl: 1 3/16 x 1 1/4 in. Raymond and Frances Bushell Collection (AC1998.249.178a-b) Using the pomegranate as decoration for a bowl has a dual meaning here. Like a covered bowl, the pomegranate is an intricate and mysterious container with a surprise inside.
Oskar Kokoschka, The apple of Eve, 1913 Lithograph on J. W. Zanders paper 13 3/8 x 11 5/8 in. The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies (M.82.287.33f) The apple is perhaps the most suggestive fruit symbol in Western culture. It can represent temptation, knowledge of forbidden things, unbearable lust, or curiosity.
Roy Lichtenstein, Yellow Still Life, 1974 Lithograph and screenprint on Rives BFK paper 33 x 44 1/4 in. Gift of Marilyn and Philip Meltzer (M.79.72.5) There's a joke in Yellow Still Life about the persistance of still lives. Additionally, one might notice that, after Warhol, the banana in art is not the same.
Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Still Life with Skull, 1912 Oil on canvas 23 1/4 x 27 3/8 Bequest of Fannie and Alan Leslie (M.2006.73.41) In an echo of classic 17th century still lifes, the skull among the fruit reminds us that time is passing and that we shouldn't get too caught up in tempting colorful objects.
Keisuke Mizuno, Fruit-Teapot, 1999 Porcelain 3 1/2 in.; Diameter: 8 in. Purchased with funds provided by the Smits Ceramics Purchase Fund (AC1999.63.1-.3) The curious habit of decorating china with fruit reaches its zenith here, ready to explode.
Wilhelm Morgner, Fruit Harvest, 1912 Linoleum cut on wove paper 16 1/4 x 20 1/16 in. The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies (M.82.288.214e) Usually a symbol of bounty and generosty, this harvest basket is half-filled and the people hunched over might be filled with angst or grief.
Claes Oldenburg, Cherry Pastry, 1961 Plaster sculpture with plate 6 1/2 x 11 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. Gift of Robert H. Halff through the Modern and Contemporary Art Council (M.2005.38.31a-b) Want some cherry pie? The contrast here lies between dessert and its lifeless imitation: this pastry is made of plaster.
Claes Oldenburg, Apple Core – Spring, 1990 Lithograph in four colors on Lawrence Barker Green paper 40 1/2 x 29 in. Gift of Gemini G.E.L. in honor of the museum's twenty-fifth anniversary (M.90.113.3) Is the apple still an apple when it's eaten to the core? It may not be food anymore, but it's still a symbol.
Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Fruit Dish, 1909 Drypoint 5 1/8 x 4 5/16 in. Art Museum Council Fund (M.62.4) Form and its variations supercede any symbolism of fruit here, but even verging on abstraction, artists are still fascinated by the shape of fruit.
Diego Rivera, Fruits of the Tree of Life (Frutos del árbol de la vida), 1932 Lithograph 17 1/2 x 12 3/8 in. Gift of Mr. J. J. Cohn (M.61.43.5) Fruit signifies life, hospitality and generosity in this painting. This view is in contrast to the foreboding in Woman with Fruit Basket, by Rufino Tamayo, Rivera's contemporary.
Severin Roesen, Fruit Still Life in a Landscape,, circa 1862-1872 Oil on canvas 36 5/16 x 50 1/2 in. Gift by exchange of Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr. and Mary and Will Richeson, Jr. (M.77.126) Echoing the tradition of still lives, this one goes for broke, combining fruits of different harvest seasons that are rarely seen ripe together to emphasize the bounty of nature and the exuberance of the harvest.
Rosenthal Porzellan, Cherry Motif Mocha Cup and Saucer, 1903 Porcelain with transfer decoration Cup height: 3 in.; Diameter: 2 7/8 in.; Saucer diameter: 5 3/8 in. Gift of Max Palevsky (AC1998.265.39.1-.2) You rarely see a cherry alone. Their tendency to appear in pairs always fascinates people.
Edward Ruscha, Fruit-Metrecal Hollywood, 1971 Two-color screenprint on Copperplate Deluxe paper, printed in two runs from two screens with grape and apricot jam and Metrecal 14 1/2 x 42 in. Cirrus Editions Archive. Purchased with funds provided by the Director's Roundtable, and gift of Cirrus Editions (M.86.2.961) There is fruit in this piece of art, but not readily apparent. One of the runs of this iconic Hollywood image by Ed Ruscha was created with fruit jam and Metrecal, a popular meal replacement diet drink. At this point, in the early 1970s, Ruscha was experimenting with alternative materials such as gunpowder, Pepto-Bismol, fruit juice and caviar. Replacing ink or charcoal, Ruscha was investigating how inscriptions and imprints can be altered in unexpected ways.
Edward Steichen, Three Pears & an Apple, 1921, printed 1921 Gelatin-silver print 9 5/8 x 7 1/2 The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin (M.2008.40.2028) These seem more like a study in texture and form than any message about fruit. The formal beauty and symbolism of fruit often attract the artists attention
Joseph Stella, Fruit Still Life, 20th c. Pastel 23 x 16 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney E. Cohn (M.80.141) Almost all of Stella's work is abstract, so this early painting is a surprise, almost a classic fruit still life, but the background already hints at his belief that a painting is "a flat surface with paint on it - nothing more."
William Henry Fox Talbot, Still Life With Apples & Pineapple In Baskets, 1844-1846, printed 1844-1846 Calotype (salt) 6 1/2 x 7 7/8 The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin (M.2008.40.908) When pineapples were still rare and exotic, people often rented them to display at parties. Sometimes they were never eaten, just displayed until they rotted. Occasionally a guest would try to take a slice to taste and the hosts would be horrified - it cost them a fortune.
Rufino Tamayo, Woman with Fruit Basket (Mujer con canasta de frutas),1926 Oil on canvas 34 3/4 x 26 3/4 in. The Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art (M.2006.213.3) Here, fruit and fertility are represented again with a somewhat surrealist touch considering the weight the woman's mask-like face against the gaping expression of the red papaya.
Unknown, Dish (Pan) with Gardenia Spray, Lotus, Pomegranates, Peaches, and Grapes, Ming dynasty, Hongzhi mark and period, 1488-1505 Wheel-thrown porcelain with underglaze blue, clear glaze, and reserved overglaze enamel ground Diameter: 10 1/4 in. Gift of Miss Bella Mabury (M.54.32) Small dishes are time and again decorated with fruit, which is funny considering that's what's often served on them.
Unknown, Seal Paste Box (Yinnihe) with Litchi Stems, Middle Ming dynasty, about 1450-1550 Carved red lacquer on wood core Diameter: 2 15/16 in. Gift of Joanne Lee in memory of Grandma Eleanor S. Gorman (M.87.205a-b) The symbolism of the lychee in China represents fertility and the marriage bed.
Wesley Vernier, The Great California Pear, 1864 Oil on canvas 16 1/16 x 12 1/8 in. Gift of Mrs. Fred Hathaway Bixby (M.47.5) This pear is more of an allegory than a study of the pear itself. The title of the painting, The Great California Pear, gives it away: expressing California as a place of golden bounty.
Max Weber, Still Life with Two Tables, circa 1934 Oil on canvas 28 1/4 x 36 3/8 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Goetz (M.62.48) Still Life with Two Tables is a sad still life.
Edward Weston, Bananas, 1930, printed 1930 Gelatin-silver print 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin (M.2008.40.2411) Here, the banana might be just a banana, not a symbol of something else.
Mark Wyse, Marks of Indifference #3 (Neighbors Fruit), 2006 Chromogenic development print 30 1/2 x 33 3/4 in. Ralph M. Parsons Fund (M.2009.88.1) Fruit in art often represents temptation in some form; in this case, the temptation is for other peoples' fruit.