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Monthly Mural Wrap: A Dozen Tags for August, 2012

This month's survey of notable mural and street art stories, there are a few homages to artists who passed away, street art value is on the rise, and some chatter about a dragon in Ventura.

IN MEMORY OF: Mexican born artist Josefina Quezada passed away in May, and friends and family met at The Pico House August 19 for an exhibition and memorial, led by Isabel Rojas-Williams, Executive Director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. Also in Quezada's honor, "Tree of Knowledge" (1978) in East Los Angeles was restored in June as a commemoration. ADD: Rojas-Williams is holding a lecture on the history of muralism and a look at current policy development at Crain Art Gallery in San Marino September 6. The event is free. Details at San Marino Patch.

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HISTORIC MURALS: Kent Twitchell asked for ideas to title his series of murals for the newly renovated Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, honoring the original Helen Lundeberg WPA murals. The deadline was August 29. The winner will be selected in early September. Luckily for archivists, Twitchell documented his own process on his facebook. A telling quote from the master muralist: "I am not a 'Photorealist' as stated above [in linked article]. That is a philosophy of art that came out of Abstract Expressionism. I am simply a Realist."

MURAL SAVED: With his purchase of a Venice Post Office, Hollywood producer Joel Silver saved a set of 1939 WPA murals by Edward Biberman. It's the last WPA building remaining in downtown Venice, reports Patch.

HISTORICAL REFERENCES: José Clemente Orozco's influence on Jackson Pollock get a closer look at the New York Times. Pollock was first introduced to Orozco work in person when he visited the just completed "Prometheus" (1930) at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., writes Martha Schwender.

TAG EXPRESSIONISM: Street artist David Flores paid homage to late artist Karl Benjamin with a mural that honors the Abstract Classicist. That movement, by the way, was coined by Benjamin and his colleagues Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin. In some ways, Flores' play on stained glass through angled shapes is a contemporary version of the 1950s rebellion against Abstract Expressionism by the rebellious Southern California artists. "Anyone who puts in that much time, effort into one particular style, one particular genre and kept wind of it his whole career, that says something - like stick with it, keep doing what you're doing, and have fun, and I respect that," said Flores to The Daily Bulletin.

MOCA's "Art in the Streets" is still being credited as the major survey that changed the perception of street art value. First, The Wall Street Journal looks at the genre, and reports that artist Barry McGee stated the intent of street art is still to antagonize and look "illegal." Then Elite Traveler looks at Bonhams inaugural U.S. based Urban art auction on October 29th that is "riding a swell of street art interest and enthusiasm in the Southern California art market."

Courtesy of DENMARK
SPEAKING OF ANTAGONIZE: Street artist Denmark protested Disney's lobbying for copyright extensions by modifying stop signs with mouse ears.

DOWN SOUTH: Chicano Park Restoration Project is still getting well-deserved press. At La Prensa San Diego, female muralists Irma Lerma Barbosa, Celia Herrera Rodriguez, and Rosalinda Montez Palacios are profiled. "Now, these women artists teach us how young women at the time struggled not only as members of such movements, but also as advocates against sexism within those movements." reports La Prensa. In another Chicano Park story, this time at California Report, muralist Guillermo Aranda said: "Once we did the murals here at Chicano Park, it exploded, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas...even back to the east coast, murals began to explode all over."

LOCAL RECALL: "Carlos Almaraz: A Life Recalled" opened August 25 at East Los Angeles College's Vincent Price Art Museum. The museum wrote: "The show traces the trajectory of Carlos's life" from his early years in Mexico; childhood in East Los Angeles; travels in New York; and an "awakening to the Chicano Movement and participation in Los Four collective; domestic bliss as a husband and father; recognition as a rising Los Angeles studio art star; and victim of AIDS." It runs through Dec. 8, 2012. The opening reception is Saturday, September 8, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A mural in Ventura I Courtesy of Tómas Hernández

AIR RIGHTS: A proposed mural by Tómas Hernández, executive director for an an Oxnard nonprofit group, Arts for Action, is getting heat. Some locals claimed ethnic territory air rights and felt his proposed design to use a Chinese Dragon doesn't reflect most of the community. Hernández, who is also the artist, showed the proposal to gain civic and community support. When confronted by a few, he boldly said the region doesn't need "another been-there, done-that stereotypical Chicano icon."

Checking in with Hernández, he explained how he is aware that murals belong to the people, yet thinks future community based work "should be elevated." The dragon is designed to fit the sweeping retainer wall giving the piece a sense of movement, he said, and would mark this Year of the Dragon. As for a regional connection, it stands to reason there were many Chinese-Americans who worked the local fields. Hernández is a graduate from UC Santa Barbara's Chicano Studies program.

SPEAKING OF AIRING: Art Battle LA premieres August 30, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KCET. Directed and edited by Eric Heights; written and produced by Nic Cha Kim, the documentary covers the BritWeek throw down between the American team with Mear One and Man One, and U.K. street artists Inkie and Eine.

TOUCHDOWN JESUS: It's football season. In this part of the world, you will find the region heavy with dedicated USC football rooters who want nothing to do with Notre Dame. Not many know the mural that can be seen from the rival stadium, nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus," is by Southern California muralist Millard Sheets, as seen in the video below.


Top: Ofelia Esparza blessing the altar in memory of Josefina Quezada at The Pico House August 19, 2012. Photo by Helen Ly.

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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