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A Big Lift Toward Protecting Siqueiros' América Tropical Mural

Now underway at El Pueblo Historical Monument is a major step in the long awaited conservation of América Tropical, the David Alfaro Siqueiros politically charged mural that was whitewashed soon after being completed in 1932.

On Monday afternoon, workers began to move a canopy by crane to Main street. By Tuesday afternoon it will be ready to be lifted into place and be installed to protect the 90-foot mural. It moves forward plans for a viewing platform and interpretive center, part of an ongoing public-private partnership between the City and the Getty.

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The canopy, with its additional sunshade, will protect the mural from further exposure to weather. The interpretive center is being constructed on the ground floor of the Sepulveda House, and when completed, will feature an exhibition on América Tropical's history, and share the techniques and "legacy of Siqueiros," said the Getty in a release.

The interpretive center will include ongoing conservation as a topic, which has its own history.

Saving the mural was first discussed in 1968, when late Chicano Art Activist and Professor Shifra Goldman lobbied to preserve the work when the images -- a South American Indian peasant crucified on a double cross beneath a North American eagle -- began to appear out from the whitewash.

The Getty began initial conservation treatment in 1988, and since then work has been ongoing, including researching painting methods and stabilizing the plaster façade of the wall, supplementing Getty Conservation Institute's (CGI) studies of materials developed and used by Siqueiros, according to The Getty.

In 1997, the wall itself was seismically stabilized, and in 2005, a temporary reproduction of AméricaTropical was attached as a protective cover, that was for many, an introduction to the scope of the mural.

At a 2006 announcement of the financial commitment from The Getty Foundation, and plans for the viewing station and interpretive center, professor and muralist Judy Baca called the image appearing from under the whitewash an aparición that "inspired new murals to be produced in Los Angeles."

The canopy is part of a $3.95 million commitment from the Getty Foundation and $6 million from the City of Los Angeles, that according to The Getty, is a $9.95 million public-private investment that includes financial support from Friends of Heritage Preservation. The Getty will continue maintaining and conserving the mural for ten years, then the city, now in partnership with Amigos de Siqueiros, will oversee the landmark work.

The big lift comes days after Los Angeles City Council declared April 20th as Dia de Siqueiros.

According to the Getty, the center designed to protect "what remains from Siqueiros' own hand. " The center will open in October, the month that marks the 80th anniversary of the debut of América Tropical.

Maria Lopez / vfal for KCET


Above: On Monday, a crane is prepared for move a canopy next to David Alfaro Siqueiros' mural América Tropical. Middle: The wall that is the site of the mural (center) will have a viewing platform next to the historic public art. Photo by Helen Ly / viewfromaloft. Below: The América Tropica canopy was gently set down Tuesday under the watchful eye of staff from the City and the Getty, who were best described as 'giddy" with this step in a long awaited project. Photo by Maria Lopez / viewfromaloft

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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