The mural wars continue


I see this mural and I feel nothing. No connection to the history it has, the images depicted on it and what it means to the community and t artist responsible for creating such a beautiful work of art. It’s been there longer than I have been alive and seen Boyle Heights change and grow over the years. Everything I feel and see in that mural nowadays I learned to appreciate it. I walk by it almost everyday and I understand the history behind the streetscapers and the legacy muralist are continuing since the  ’20s. My thirst for knowledge has shown me the rich legacy murals have in all of East Los and around the world for that matter, but that’s the trick. I wanted to know more about it. Then there are other residents that could careless about what they are, but appreciate it for what it is, art. At least that’s what I realized after Willie Herron III explained it to me from his point of view. He told me that even though I may not feel a connection to the images in the mural or understand it, we can all appreciate it. Murals like the “Corrido of Boyle Heights” may be the closest some residents will ever get to art. That alone merits appreciation in the murals, but mocosos still fail to grasp that. It’s the same arguments over and over again: If kids had a proper outlet they wouldn’t be doing shit like this or if the city had more arts programs for youth, taught them more history and appreciate their heritage etc. So does this post have a point? Maybe and maybe not. Maybe I just wanted to post up a picture of HOW STUPID PEOPLE ARE or ramble about a conversation I had today with Herron. Whatever the reason, the mural will survive. As Brandy Healy succinctly put it, “Well, at least its graffiti coated thanks to the restoration skills of Paul Botello & crew with support from CD 1 Councilman Ed Reyes. I hope the clean up folks come soon. Not only is this particular defacement completely void of any meaning or aesthetic, it’s just insultingly stupid.” And so the mural wars continue.

19 thoughts on “The mural wars continue

  1. I love that mural. I was just looking at the other day along with the one near it on Daly called Chicano Time Trip. The Chicano Time Trip is my favorite one. When I was a kid I would look at scenes from daily life depicted via public art or advertisements and in general it would be 1950s looking people who were all white. When I saw that mural I thought it was neat that it looked late 70s and it was the daily life of people of color. I felt like I could see my own family doing that. Two artsy parents the ages. I liked the modern with times (well late 70s time) mixed in with the 19th century. Very nice mural.

    It reminded me of when I used to look at my mother’s Marvin Gaye album with Ernie Barne’s Sugarshack painting on it. I never bothered to listen to the record, I don’t think I even remember the name of the album, but I remember the painting on the album. Those two paintings remind me of the feelings I had looking at that album.

    He died in April in case anyone is wondering where is Ernie now.

    I think they were both done by the East Los Streetscapers. It’s one of the few instances of post WW2 public art that I like. In general public art is pretty crappy and “community building,” but these murals bring the community together owing to the beauty of the work.


  2. I guess I should comment on the graffiti. I don’t know it’s public art and yeah people should not deface it, but it’s the public. The only thing you can do is just make sure the work the work is protected and clean it up.

    You know in away though when you deface a mural you sort of bring new life to it. If no one painted on certain art who would you bother to put up an older mural on a blog or take a photo of it or talk about it, probably no one. You have to look at these kinds of things as positives to the art.

    Like for instance there is this awesome mural in East Harlem. Some kids defaced it (I personally thought it was a charming embellishment, when I looked at it initially I thought what is not supposed to be there and then I realized the bubble writing wasn’t supposed to be there, but I thought it might be kind of cool to have a writing section to that mural, combining two styles of art, two generations, two ways of looking at East Harlem) but had those kids not done that, the mural wouldn’t have ended up in the NY Times and I would never have known it existed so…

    Kids do bad things sometimes, but sometimes the bad things that kids do remind you of the good that is out there. Without the insanity of the graffiti people lots of this work would be forgotten, because people can’t really get excited about something beautiful (especially if it’s old and not in some fancy museum and doesn’t have 3000 books that state: This is ok, so like it,) but they are pretty good at getting upset about something they view as ugly.


  3. One more comment, to me the really ugly graffiti on the mural is the ugly corporate Payless and Verizon signs, to me you have this beautiful mural about community and you have these signs that are products that are surrounding the mural that have everything to do with destroying the community.

    Why can’t the corporate signs be a bit smaller or less obvious?


  4. Maybe it’s just a conflict of age-groups. One group doesn’t give a f*ck about the other, quite simply. The rising tide of youth discontent. Even they now know that a mural cannot replace the reality of a better life. Their sloppy tag says “I’m here more than those on the mural. I too matter.”

  5. I agree with Browne, I at first thought El Ramdom’s post was about the espanol verizon sign, till I looked closer at the mural and saw that it’s been defaced. Many people are going to jump to the conclusion that gang members did it. Gang members have been in the area for years, and that mural was unscathed. And there’s had to have been some nasty tagging wall wars in that area over the years, and somehow, that mural never became a civilian casualty of it. So I don’t buy that it was the homeboys. No graffiti artist would dare do it. Unthinkable to them. Who does that leave? Somebody who doesn’t like the mural, for one, obviously, and somebody who’s not a gang member, not a tagger, not a graffiti artist, not a random person in BH who would have no reason for doing it, probably not some pissed off kid in a fight with his girlfriend and looking to kick up any kind of dust, he wouldn’t have the balls… My liberal conspiracy theorist brain just envisions an outsider doing the job, particularly someone who wants to turn that building into condos. I’m thinking maybe they had the verizon guy jump off of the billboard and do it. El Gentrification!

  6. lord knows i’ve done my share of writing shit on walls, but it was sort of an unwritten rule that you didn’t fuck with the murals. unless of course you had some kinda beef with the artist. not saying it never happened, just saying it was usually frowned upon.

    love graffiti art as much as the next, but that, as well as numerous similar throw ups around town, looks more like it was done by some asshole with a spray gun filled with paint who had no artistic intent whatsoever than some conspiracy hatched by “outsiders” or anyone else.

  7. It looks like someone tried to spell something out, any guess? Also it seems that the paint was shot out on the mural using a commercial high pressure rig, could it have been the same one used by the guys painting white stripes on the street?

  8. As sad as it is to see murals defaced by badly thrown up tags, I have to say, the billboard is way more obnoxious and ugly. Get rid of graffiti, ban billboards!

  9. donquixote: B T C K which I believe stands for Big Time Criminal Krew the last time I saw it completely spelled out by one of the “writers” among my students.

  10. Persistence of Vision makes both beauty and ugliness invisible, if you look at it long enough. The challenge of culture is making the old things new and fresh to the next generation.

    The Destructive Impulse, some say, is also a creative impulse. Not really true, but, it’s a poetic justification for the inevitable damage of power struggles.

    I think these 20-foot tall letters are the popular thing right now. They’re all over the place. Ugly as hell, but maybe that’s intentional.

  11. i could totally see if they defaced the older mural with something that at least looks like they put some work into making it look good. but hell, there\’s no shortage of walls and billboards around without murals on them they could\’ve thrown up on. then again, if they had, no one would be talking about it and them……

  12. That mural was (is) a benchmark for the community, a testimony to people’s celebrating their culture. I have trouble getting my head around a senseless defiling of it for the sake of a shallow statement by vandals. It’s a lot like, though maybe not as rash as the Taliban dynamiting those Two Buddhas in the Bamyan Valley of Afghanistan. Maybe that comparison is over the top? Let’s hope so…

  13. EastSideClover is a big part of boyle heights lincon heights east la and beyond to like the socalled nela part of town which will alway’s be considered original east la

  14. my anti-spam word was “cuete” lol

    I love the mural of Anthony Quinn over on 3rd street at Broadway on the side of the Victor Clothing bldg.

    I hate what has happened to the murals on the Hollywood fwy thru downtown that were first put up for the 1984 LA Summer Olympics.
    I especially liked the one with the space and planets theme, some of the these murals have been painted over and others have been sadly tagged up.
    These knuckle heads need a “cuete” up their butt.

  15. Nothing irritates me more than seeing those ugly fertilizer/super soaker tags over classic murals. Some writers are losing respect. I rarely saw murals get bombed on, now I’ve seen tags over Virgin Mary murals, murals of Cesar Chavez, and others.

  16. I love this mural and fond memories of it as well, i remember seeing the eastlos streetscapers paint it when I was younger and always admired it.

    Like mentioned it was some young dumbass taggers who did that. I have seen that crew BTC pieced in a much better style on walls, too bad whoever from this crew did this was too concerned with trying to catch fame to respect quality art.

    They use a fire extinguisher or super soaker filled with diluted paint to make tags like that for hard to cover larger surfaces higher up. That medium for tagging has recently become popular, and is one of the many ways vandalism has changed as a response to aggressive graffiti abatement programs that buffed everything. They began painting over everything, including the generally secluded places where writers could paint quality pieces that took time. This occurred just when tagbanging began blowing up, and combined these 2 developments in LA graffiti basically ate away at the piecing-art aspect of the medium in Los Angeles. And funding for art programs and school art classes continued to decline, and youth programs never got the funding they needed to adequately address the huge juvenile delinquincy problem (aka poor kids with nothing to do). But graffiti did not go away, it just became more socially deviant, violent and destructive with the collabo-breakdancing-piecer element taking a backseat.

    Kids did not just stop painting because it got buffed quicker, and the environmental factors that lead kids to destroy another’s property (even if it is sometimes art) did not go away, they probably got worse. But the incentive was gone to paint nice pieces because they got erased quickly, so style based fame in graffiti quickly took a back seat to who bombed and tagged more (they both always existed in LA graffiti, but just look at the the ages of writers who turned their graff into an art career is a pretty good indicator of how that gateway dwindled after the mid 90s). So rather than using 10 cans and a few hours to do a badass piece that may get buffed quickly, it became much better in terms of graff fame to use those same cans and time to tag half the city rather than one spot. The worst part is that the positive part of graff I saw and experienced, which was seeing the dysfunctional kids who came into the medium for pure criminality get turned onto and pretty good at art became much more rare, whereas the outright criminality became much more prevalent (tagbanging, being basically a gangster who tags rather than claims a neighborhood).

    This trend contiinues on, art programs still are neglected and politicos still vow to get “tough on graffiti” despite every past “get tough” program being abysmal failures. Taggers are basically gangbanging junior nowadays, shooting at each other and emulating the cholo culture they dont full-on engage in but still respect and imitate. The funding for graffiti abatement is lopsided towards painting everything with shitty beige buff paint rather than proactively stopping kids from tsgging walls. So the spaces where graff existed got smaller and was guarded more fiercely, and no wviolently, by writers; and the places that were once taboo to tag such as murals are seen as a place where one’s tag will run much longer by opportunistic writers.

    The kind of selfishness and egomania it takes for one to rationalize defacing one of eastlos’ most famous murals and buildings for a shitty tag that doesnt even look nice is a reflection of the narcicism driven culture we live in. Like when someone cuts you off in line and dogs you for it, or how buying hummers and flipping homes blinded people to the impending doom making up BS money created, pure greed and selfishness for a short burst of wealth that has now created long term poverty.

    I saw this selfishness and negativity overcome something I loved and helped me get thru my struggles, graffiti. It never was a good thing unless you only did permission walls, and most writers have always been self absorbed assholes, but the artistic vein of graff that turned me on is now muted by all the selfish negativity. We had celebrated a half decade of keeping an open space for kids to practice graffiti recently, only to have it ruined by fuckfaces who’d rather flash a gun or hurt somebody than develop the skills to excel in graffiti (something theyre supposedly down for) through creating tight work. The county now cites these dudes pulling guns on code enforcement for legal walls and hitting innocents with strays as why they are rebeginning to buff these walls we foguth so hard to make open for kids to develop their skills.

    There is no logic to this act, like much of graffiti, it is a medium that is born from and caters to social deviance. But even thing that are the most destructive have good aspects, I still see graffiti as holding the potential to turn a lot of deviant youth into positive action.

  17. awww, that mural is one of my earliest memories. i had no idea where it was until i was older and realized those huge people i saw while mom was driving us home from grandma’s. so sad that they threw paint over it. i’m not sure who those taggers are but obviously they don’t feel the connection the neighborhood has felt with it for 20+ years.

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