has an epic history. It’s awe-inspiring
and tragic. This work addresses the
spectacle of progress and limitless
consumption. Our city has sprouted
out of a desert, but water in L.A.
is anything but instant.”
Those who enter the Haaga
Family Rotunda will quickly recognize
that big picture. The 6- by 8-foot
original watercolors that Reynolds has
created for display in the Mezzanine,
will captivate visitors whichever
way they arrive—through the
Age of
Mammals
, the Dinosaur Hall, or the
Becoming Los Angeles
exhibit. The iconic
image of
Just Add Water
is Reynolds’s
work,
A Glass of Drinking Water
,
anchored by the text: “There it is.
Take it.” Reynolds’s work fuses images
and text, and in this case, was inspired
by those words famously uttered by
William Mulholland, superintendent
of the Los Angeles Water Department
at the Aqueduct’s debut.
The exhibition also portrays
the less triumphant episodes in
Mulholland’s tenure. Reynolds creates a
beautiful image of the St. Francis Dam,
built as a reservoir for the Aqueduct.
He depicts the dam in its glory, just
prior to the moment in March 1928
when the dam was filled to capacity
and collapsed (hours after it cleared
a safety inspection). This event was
one of the most significant engineering
failures of the 20th century, claiming
The crowds weren’t just cheering
for water. A new apex of culture— 
the Museum of History, Science,
and Art (the original name of NHM)— 
opened the following day, November 6,
2013, to considerable fanfare. An
estimated 35,000 people came to
see the new museum and adjacent
exposition building, armory, and
sunken garden. When the Museum
doors first swung open, inaugural
visitors encountered paintings by
Old Masters in the art wing and
fossil specimens of Ice Age mammals
“marching” in the Natural Science Hall.
Now, NHM is revisiting these
two natural and cultural moments.
On November 5, the Aqueduct-
themed special exhibition,
Just Add
Water,
opens. Los Angeles-based
contemporary artist Rob Reynolds
has created 10 original, large-scale
watercolors that interpret the epic
significance of the Aqueduct, through
the lens of history, geography, and
time. In each, Reynolds references
key sites and historical moments
aligned with the Aqueduct’s 233-mile
route and 100-year history. This
special exhibition, guest-curated by
art historian Dr. Charlotte Eyerman,
invites visitors to rediscover Southern
California’s parched past through
the lens of Reynolds’s vision.
“For me, this project has been
about research and discovery: where
our water comes from, how it changed
the landscape, and our perceptions
of nature,” said Reynolds. “Most of all,
the process has been to gain more
understanding about the
people
who
brought the water. Water in L.A.
nearly 500 lives and marking the
demise of Mulholland’s career.
In addition to human dramas,
Just Add Water
reenvisions the natural
beauty along the Aqueduct’s route.
Reynolds’s image of Mono Lake shows
the limestone outcroppings, called
“tufa,” rising out of dead calm water
in early morning light dripping purple
and green. He also created a water-
color depicting a massive section of
Aqueduct pipe stretching over the arid
desert terrain, with Owens Valley water
gushing inside, and another based on
a 1913 photograph of the Aqueduct
cascades in Sylmar, a curve of silvery
water winding down into the valley.
Above: A souvenir bottle containing Owens
River water given out at the opening of the
Los Angeles Aqueduct on November 5, 1913.
“Our city has sprouted out
of a desert, but water in
L.A. is anything but instant.”
­— Los Angeles Artist Robert Reynolds.
Los Angeles Water Flowing Over the Owens Valley
, 2013 (detail)
Watercolor, gouache and ink on paper in artist’s frame, 68" x 93"
Photography by Robert Wedemeyer.
Copyright Rob Reynolds, 2013.
Naturalist
October/November 2013 
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