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Animals take over

Creatures take shape in wild exhibition at Forest Lawn Museum.

September 08, 2010|By Terry Martin

"Menagerie: The Art of Animals" is an exhibition true to its name. The Forest Lawn Museum along with guest co-curator and artist William Stout have assembled a collection of art that depicts animal subjects, including bronze and paper sculpture, animation art and paleoart, produced by more than two dozen artists spanning more than two centuries. Paintings by Los Angeles Zoo resident Rosie the Orangutan and insect wrangler Steven R. Kutcher are a fun contribution to the exhibition, adding a new dimension to the term Animal Art with their depictions and observations.

Charles Marion Russell (1864 – 1926), famous for painting and sculpting in the American West genre, is represented in the exhibition by three small bronze sculptures — a wolf, a pig and a bison. Though diminutive, 1.5 inches to 7.5 inches, his pieces are significant for their lifelike characteristics and motion. Likely working from firsthand observation of his subjects, the artist frees creatures from bronze, giving the appearance of natural movement, not posed, in pursuit of activities in the animal world. Russell's well-recognized interpretation of Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians hangs in the Capitol building in Helena, Mont. Many other bronze sculptors from various time periods and continents are represented in the exhibition including Peter Brooke, Antoine Louis Barye and Sirio Tofanari.

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Walt Disney is well represented in the Menagerie. Tyrus Wong's conceptual drawing of Bambi (1942) for Walt Disney Studios gives viewers a hint at the beginning of the playful fawn character. Andreas Deja's "Lioness Hunting Zebra" demonstrates the artist's thumbprint on Disney's animated film "The Lion King," and Marc Davis, credited with creating many of Disney's leading animated ladies — Snow White, Cinderella, Maleficent, Cruella De Vil and Tinker Bell — was partially responsible for the development of the Dalmatian characters.

Davis' zoo sketchbook and Dalmatian model sheets are available for viewing and are a fun insight into the development of one of Disney's most successful and beloved stories. Leon Joosen's "Paper Lion" paper sculpture is excellent for both its engineering and caricature, very nearly a culmination of the many Disney lions.

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