Monthly Mural Wrap: A Dozen Tags for June, 2014

"Writing on the Wall" as a regular column is being buffed, so to speak. Here at Departures, moving forward I'll be covering human interest and cultural stories around Los Angeles and Southern California's inland region. My ongoing coverage on murals, street art, and public art will now be posted at Artbound.

That makes this a good time to acknowledge the ad-hoc viewfromaloft team of Helen Ly and María Margarita López. And thanks to photographers Jonathan Alcorn in Los Angeles and Bebe Kropko in the Inland region, who more than once responded to a specific photo request. Plus, a nod to the distinguished list of guest writers who gave readers multiple perspectives, including Professor Street Art, our spring writer-in-residence. They all added some class to the joint.

But as we have seen, a buff doesn't always mean gone forever. "Writing on the Wall" will continue to cover mural policy development, achievement, or shenanigans -- that tale doesn't seem to end.

Here's a look at mural and street art stories for the month, the last Mural Wrap for the time being:

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Arts for LA Executive Director Danielle Brazell has been tapped by Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as the new general manager of the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles, the same department that's guardian of the mural ordinance. Brazell was a subject at Artbound in 2013.

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In the mean streets of El Segundo, the public had the chance to see "LA Liber Amicorum" ("book of friends") at art laboratory, ESMoA. What was on the pages in form and style invaded the walls and floors of the museum for "Scratch." The exhibition is the black book's public debut, the brainchild of Ed Sweeney, collector of contemporary graffiti art. The exhibition of Los Angeles street artists and tattoo artists, polished with intellectual discourse bombing by The Getty's David Brafman, runs through September 21.

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A fun read by New York curator and critic Simon Watson who documented his 78 hours in Los Angeles, including a studio visit with Kenny Scharf.

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"Muir Woods" is a mural on the outside of Olympic High School that was painted in 1978 when the building was home to John Muir Elementary School. School officials consider it obsolete and too costly if restored by the original artist, Jane Golden. "Muir Woods" is her last surviving mural in Santa Monica. Many of her works were under the Social and Public Art Resource Center's mural program. Golden's experience in Los Angeles became a bigger idea -- she founded the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and is now its executive director. From "Muir" came murals as a reference to a national urban art movement. This one Los Angeles school may want to save it for possible curriculum on local art history.

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Through KCET's SoCal Connected, "I Am Los Angeles" filmmaker Joris Debeij profiles street artist Chase.

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It's out of town, but when the "Godfather of Graffiti" speaks, it's worth listening to. UK's The Independent profiles New York's SEEN, who see's a flaw in today's graffiti scene. "Today it's just gone so far to the point where you don't know what's real or fake anymore," Seen said to the UK publication. "It's missing the mysteriousness about it."

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The unrealized mural sketches of Edward Biberman are being exhibited at SPARC in "Lost Horizons: Mural Dreams of Edward Biberman." Biberman's skill to find beauty in everyday life and in, as he would say, the "work of man," shows the social roots of the city's larger mural legacy. The SPARC exhibition is in partnership with LACMA's "Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice."

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At LACMA, Biberman's New-Deal mural "Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice" is once again a centerpiece. "Behind him, slender gondolas, circa 1905, float in canals lined with bungalows -- all bathed in sunny pastels, a haze of nostalgia. It has elements of fun, it's brightly colored ... But at the same time, Biberman ... was quite honest about ... how the oil industry, at that time, was ruining the beaches," notes L.A. Times' Deborah Vankin.

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Brazilian street art artist Flip has been painting Long Beach with some help from local artist and CSULB grad Artie Luna, reports the Long Beach Post. "Flip and I met at his art show here in Long Beach and that's when the idea of painting a mural started to formulate," Luna said. "Two months later he returned after painting murals and a solo art exhibition in Japan to complete the mural here in Long Beach." Flip's mural can be found at MADHaus, located at 624 Pacific Avenue.

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The Detroit Beautification Project was thought up over lunch between regional art enabler Matt Eaton and exiled Los Angeles artist Revok, reports Detroit's alternative weekly. The two were lamenting the lack of variety and "real competent" graffiti here. That was in 2012, and all the Detroit Beautification Project's original murals are still up, including a number by Los Angeles artists (except the one by Sever that poked how graffiti culture has gone mainstream.)

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L.A. should have one of these -- a museum dedicated to street art. It will be in Jersey City and called Mana Museum of Urban Arts. The inaugural exhibition will be in September 2014. Eugène Lemay is the founder and director of Mana Contemporary (Chicago, New Jersey) and told AMA the opening of the museum represents "the achievement and continuation of his initial project to create a space dedicated to street art that began with the Mana Contemporary."

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When Robert Vargas completed his painting of Rickey "The Pirate" Taylor on a utility box in downtown Los Angeles, I thought it was a great example of site-specific public art. Now it's a memorial. He passed away June 17, and the box that has his face peek out from the streets of downtown became an altar.

Everyone has a Rickey story, like these previous posts how the once homeless downtowner was able to secure stable shelter thanks to new friends he made in a changing city. Here's one story more from me. Once Rickey saw me with my cameras and followed me on a downtown bus, as if he was negotiating a deal for prints, or at least that's what he told the bus driver as he skipped his fare. After two stops, the driver told him to pay or leave. Rickey jumped off because he arrived at his destination. He didn't really want prints. He wanted to save walking a few steps. The pirate plundered a two-block ride.

Last week, Helen Ly sent an eloquent text when she arrived at the memorial: "Ahoy and farewell." Rickey The Pirate Funeral Fund at Give Forward.

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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