Discovering Rico Lebrun in Mexico at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts is a thrilling experience in the way that the best introductions are: eye-opening and ultimately rewarding. At the same time it is a little confounding too because the work is unfamiliar and it shouldn’t be. These are large paintings of tremendous, muscular force that are as passionate as they are perfectly constructed. That the work was made over sixty years ago and largely overlooked is bewildering. To paraphrase Jack Rutberg, “Only in L.A.”
Figure Sitting on a Beggar, 1961.
Rico Lebrun was born in Italy in 1900 and came to this country when he was twenty-four after accepting a job designing stained glass in a factory in Illinois. In a very short time he was in New York City where he had a successful career as an illustrator. Lebrun returned to Italy to study frescoes and when he resettled in the United States later he dedicated himself completely to his fine art. He had an auspicious start; almost immediately Lebrun received a commission for a fresco and was subsequently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship based on the drawings for a proposed mural. The following year they gave him another one, the second of three Guggenheim Fellowships he earned in his lifetime. When he relocated to the West Coast in 1938, he first moved to Santa Barbara but eventually settled in Los Angeles where he taught at the Chouinard Art Institute and the Disney Studios. Lebrun achieved many accomplishments during his life: gallery representation and teaching positions on both coasts, mural commissions, solo exhibitions, museum shows and fellowships. Three years after his death in 1964, the Los Angeles Museum of Art gave him a retrospective but there have been scant opportunities to see his work since then. Rico Lebrun In Mexicoseeks to rectify that…
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