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After more than a year of closure, this past April the Huntington reopened its key museum galleries, showcasing several deftly-designed 20th century tea sets.
Born near New Orleans, trained in Vienna, and settled in Pasadena, California, Clemens Friedell (1872-1963) hand-crafted the seven-piece silver Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Service with Lemonade Pitcher in 1936. Could you tell each ware’s function from the two photos? I could not, and as the display description does not specify, I visited The Huntington’s website to find out.
The Aztec motifs, on the other hand, are easier to identify: Serpent-adorned spout, rectangular body and lid, geometric embellishments. A striking pair of round eyes similar to those found in Aztec masks also drew my attention. They could be just circles with a dot in the center. The Aztec empire and civilization flourished from the 14th to 16th century in central Mexico.
Also on display is SoCal-based silversmith Allan Adler’s (1916 – 2002) work. The centerpiece, a coffee urn, is accompanied by unrelated silver pieces; including two necklaces crafted in 1970 and the Teardrop Tea Service produced in 1950. Teardrop is one of my favorite design shapes, though my mom said it brought only the sentiment of melancholy. In a lifetime one does shed more tears of sorrow than of joy. Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt were among the luminaries who commissioned Adler’s workshop.
Visitors to the “Made in L.A. 2020” exhibit linger in front of Christina Forrer’s 109×118 inch tapestry entitled Intervision, perhaps befuddled by the artwork’s vibrant, jovial colors and the sobering notes below. I, too, scanned the tapestry from top to bottom, from left to right; debating how to connect the animated depiction with today’s pressing social and political issues.
In two large-scale works produced for Made in L.A. 2020 (one on view at The Huntington and the other at the Hammer Museum), Forrer meditates on transference and trauma, considering how prejudice, anxiety, and strife can permeate generations—for example, from grandmother to mother to daughter—infectious via body language and mannerisms, and how these learned or genetically-transmitted anxieties reverberate and perpetuate.
The Huntington’s Garden of Flowing Fragrance, or the Chinese garden, manifests severe signs of drought through the pond’s exceedingly low water level. Extreme heat and sunlight cloaked all plants in dust and listlessness.
My friend Regi, a long-time member, invited me to this re-visit – my first post-COVID leisure outing after 18 long months of staycation! Without Regi’s introduction I would not have noticed and examined the exquisite tea sets up close. The seven pieces in Friedell’s Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Service with Lemonade Pitcher, from left to right in the photo, are chocolate pot, tea pot, lemonade pitcher, coffee pot, dinner bell, sugar bowl, and cream pitcher.
Images provided and copyright held by author