A marriage of art and nature

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Photos by Ruthie Brownfield / TMT Gwynn Murrill's two bronze figures in the field at the corner of Civic Center Way and Stuart Ranch Road, where her three sheep were for the last show, have caused conversation amongst passersby. Murrill's bronze "Horse" was positioned just east of the two figures, leading some viewers to guess the large trotting equine might be what the figures are talking about.

Spring may turn a young man’s fancy to thoughts of love, but summer brings our focus outdoors to art in public spaces. Unlike the dark musty paintings on museum walls, commanding steel, granite and bronze sculptures are springing up like wildflowers all over town.

Curator Carl Schlosberg is at it again, placing new works by internationally acclaimed artists in Malibu’s favorite landscapes and meeting places. Residents and tourists ogle them, discuss their merits, children are drawn to play beside them, bringing art appreciation out of the classroom and into everyday life.

Bret Price’s 20-foot-high painted steel sculpture at Civic Center and Webb Way was first.

“I had to have it up early because we needed photographs for the brochure. And that allows people to become interested,” Schlosberg said. “Someone called the other day to ask if that was the insignia for Stop Cancer.”

The huge ribbon of steel is called “XO,” or love and kisses. The steel came from a bridge somewhere in the midwest, was reassembled and then the piece was created out of it by the artist. It was on loan to the Las Vegas Museum so it had to be transported on a huge truck from there, and then a concrete foundation was poured and it was lifted up with big cranes.

There will be about 10 pieces at the Malibu Racquet Club, some back by the restaurant and a couple out in front by the entrance. Two granite water sculptures by Lew Watanabe are already installed, similar to the one at Malibu Country Mart, which was a gift to Malibu by the owners of the Malibu Beach Club store. “That one is not for sale but it’s going to be part of the show, because I’m still featuring that artist,” Schlosberg said.

The water sculpture has a great story. Lew Watanabe was working on a project two years ago when he fell and became paralyzed. He had no insurance and minimal resources.

“We jumped in and sent out a letter to all the people we knew. This was not a tax deduction, there was no time to set up a foundation, but we raised $40 thousand in 10 days. We put it into a special account and all of it went for his physical therapy, every day for two years,” Schlosberg said. “All these people just volunteered to help.”

Last week, Watanabe came to Malibu in his van with his powered wheelchair to do the installation. He designed the location and landscaping for the two pieces at the Malibu Racquet Club. “To go from almost dead to still being a productive, creative artist is a pretty remarkable story,” Schlosberg said.

“All the artists we’ve had in the last shows, they’ve been like family here,” Schlosberg said. “And then when the show’s over, they all go off into their own worlds. It’s sort of interesting to follow their course and then to trace them back to when they were all together here.”

“As new pieces go up, people will focus on what each one is as it appears,” Schlosberg said. “There’s no announcement so the suspense is an element.”

Only three locations may be used this year: Malibu Country Mart, Malibu Racquet Club and the fields off Pacific Coast Highway at Civic Center and Webb ways. Schlosberg said he could not place any at Malibu Colony Plaza, which held many sculptures last time, because, he said, he was told it had been sold and it is still in escrow.

“The new owner might have wanted it,” Schlosberg said. “But of course we didn’t know if it would close in time.”

Gwynn Murrill’s two bronze figures are already in the field where her three sheep were for the last show.

“I came by yesterday and workers waiting for the bus were looking through the fence at it and talking, wondering what it was, the two figures sitting on their haunches in the traditional way of older native peoples having a serious discussion.”

Next, Murrill’s bronze “Horse” was positioned just east of the two figures, leading some viewers to guess the large trotting equine might be what the figures are talking about.

Ed Benavente’s stainless steel “Tools of Mass Consumption” was to be installed last week at the Malibu Country Mart children’s play area. Ken Bortolazzo’s kinetic stainless steel “Mazzo di Fiori” was photographed on the beach for the cover of the brochure and will be moved for the exhibition. The brilliant reflections of polished bronze bags by Los Angeles artist Marlene Louchheim, and, from South Africa, Eduardo Villa’s bronze mother and child, will be appearing soon.

Most of the works will be installed during the last two weeks in June just before the exhibit officially opens July 1.

Schlosberg says his aim is to enrich the visual quality of our environment. “The vitality of the community and the natural beauty of the landscape make Malibu the perfect setting to show the marriage of art and nature.”

Self-guided tours are encouraged, but Schlosberg also will give personally conducted tours of all the venues by appointment, which may be made by calling 310.556.5430. The exhibition will officially open July 1 and will close August 31.