Looking Up Murals

At the feet of the “The Pope of Broadway” (1984) by Eloy Torrez.

WRITING ON THE WALL: Across from the Eloy Torrez mural, “The Pope of Broadway”, artists and thinkers gathered at the Morono Kiang Gallery June 14th to hear more about the fading of L.A’s mural culture in “Against the Wall: The Ruin and Renewal of L.A.’s Murals” . . — On the panel were Judith Baca, Artistic Director of SPARC and Professor of Art at UCLA, Man One, owner of Crewest, Yreina Cervantez, muralist and Associate Professor, Department of Chicano/a Studies CSUN City of LA Department, Pat Gomez of Cultural Affairs, and USC Adjunct Professor Micheal Woo. . — The subtext of the meeting of the mural minds was to jump start awareness for plans to restore the famous image of Anthony Quinn dancing in front of the Victor Clothing Company . . –– During the panel, Baca claims if a small percentage of the million dollars spent for graffiti abatement was earmarked for SPARC, the problems of tagging would be reduced significantly through programs established 20 years ago

Between tagging and red tape, murals are under fire. The City of Los Angeles Building and Planning, along with LAPD, monitor grassroots works and in many cases will fine property owners and require walls to be buffed out . . –- Between the taggers who hit established works, and the 2002 City of LA ordinance curbing “large signs” restoration of masterpieces and new works by emerging artists has been halted .

ADS TRUMP ART: Meanwhile, the deep pockets of those who produce commercial billboards have lawyers convincing Federal courts to force the City to review “illegal” commercial sign––”super graphics” often multiple stories high–– on a case by case basis. It slows up intervention of what some call commercial visual blight and others consider it a high jacking of the large scale composition that made L.A. the mural capital of the world at one time. .–– In other words, billboard companies found ways for commercial work to be protected by the 1st Amendment, meaning graphics promoting a summer release has more protection than a neighborhood mural.

RED TAPE: Smaller grassroots murals fall under the same category of signs, and without a legal posse, there is limited outcry other than adhoc groups and artists appearing before civic committees . . –- Still, there are those in the city who agree that murals are a community resource, and who may be also willing to consider bettergraf works as a splinter movement of large-scale and social minded works . . –- Council members Ed Reyes, Jose Huizar, and Tom LaBonge have led discussions, and in some cases proposed motions that call for the unraveling of the rules . . –- Representatives from Reyes’ office stated: “We are deeply commited to this, as Council District One has the densest collection of murals in the city.” Also, Huziar was recently interviewed on the subject of mural conservation for a future article in La Opinión.

MURAL WRAP: By the letter of the law from the 2002 ordinance, the 1980s’ era “Pope on Broadway” would have been an illegal sign because the name Victor Clothing Company, who first sponsored the mural and once was housed in the building, is part of the composition.

. . –-

MOVING ON: The proposed Sandrow Birk LAPD mural for the new Hollenbeck Station will not be installed due to outcry by both LAPD and the community . . –- The tile mural was meant to portray a typical Sunday in Boyle Heights, but residents protested how the Eastside was portrayed. LAPD wasn’t thrilled by one image in the mural; a man with his hands raised above his head while standing next to a taco truck. . . –- On the other side, an earlier article in City Beat has the artist confused and befuddled, stating that LAPD and community members were in the planning stages all along the way: ” All of their input [LAPD and Community members] was used in the creation of the final design.” . . –- News of not-to-be-installed mural was reported to me by an undisclosed Hollenbeck LAPD officer of rank who said:”That’s a relief. It didn’t represent the neighborhood, or us, at all.” A neighborhood newspaper that covers the Northeast region of L.A., The Voice, broke the news in print.

. . –-

CRUISIN’ ON: Around fifty paintings from Cheech Marin’s Chicano Art Collection will be on display at LACMA through November 2, 2008. The exhibition, “Los Angelenos/Chicano Painters of L.A.: Selections from the Cheech Marin Collection” highlights the Los Angeles based Chicano artists from “Visions: American Painters on the Verge” . . –- On Sunday, June 22, at 2pm, collector Cheech Marin and UCLA professor and LACMA adjunct curator Chon Noriega will discuss the current state of Chicano art. The talk is free, but no reservations are being taken.

“Pope on Broadway”  photo /  viewfromaloft.

6 thoughts on “Looking Up Murals

  1. It’s too bad about Sandow Birk, I love his stuff. In case you haven’t seen it, he did a series of paintings and a mockumentary on the fictional Great War of the Californias. It’s a must see!

  2. Man, that is sad, I was looking forward to the Sandow Birk mural, it would have been something special. It seems that when ignored communities get some attention they want it to be only “positive” or boosterism, as a sort of balance against the bad news of shootings and crimes that tends to be the main form of coverage. You need to have them both in order for it to be real, and from the little I’ve seen of the design and the description, I think this mural would have worked well in portraying the community. No doubt something safe and boring will be going up instead.

  3. Pingback: LA Brain Terrain » Blog Archive » Looking Up Murals Recap

  4. Visiting Pacoima while in the area and saw the Cheech Marin mural all tagged and all but destroyed. I love our youth, and I wish them all a future of fulfillment. I know many of our young are searching for meaning, they are searching for identity and they are looking for a place in society to fit in. We love them dearly. But, when they are wrong, they are wrong. Those who destroy art, rob from us all. Those who destroyed the Cheech Marin mural were just wrong. They shame themselves. This is sad.

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