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Monthly Mural Wrap: A Dozen Tags for March, 2013

For a city that is still waiting for murals to be street legal, you have to like how they manage to keep appearing. Besides Benyapa Bakewell's talk with muralist Danny Ruiz, here are a dozen extra news and notes about street art and murals from the month of March, 2013.

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A fifteen-foot mosaic mural covered at the Wilshire Grand was a buried treasure eyed by Gregory Johnson during the hotel's liquidation dismantling. Mosaic scholar Lillian Sizemore helped Johnson find back story on the piece. It turns out it was commissioned by The Los Angeles Petroleum Club when the place was known as the Hotel Statler. Sizemore recaps the detective work it took to learn about the leave-behind that was far more interesting than sheets or plates. The mural now sits in Johnson's living room. "The discovery of the Statler Hotel's Petroleum Club mural, along with the loss of the lobby work, continues to emphasize the cultural relevance, significance and importance of preserving our American mosaic legacy," wrote Sizemore at Mosaic Art Now.

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Photo: Bricia Lopez

Colectivo LaPiztola are Rosario Martinez and Roberto Vega, a brother and sister street muralist team from Oaxaca that came Los Angeles to install a piece at the invitation of Bricia Lopez. Lopez visits Oaxaca to help keep authenticity for her family's restaurant, La Guelaguetza. "I have never seen our restaurant as just a simple eating-place, but as a place from where we can share our Oaxacan culture as a whole with all of Los Angeles," writes Lopez on her blog, I Love Mole. For their Los Angeles debut, the two artists use an image of children in traditional Oaxacan clothes. Martinez tells KCRW that their hope is to capture the ideals in the name Guelaguetza, "an annual Oaxaca festival, that translates as "to receive and to give." The mural is a representation of both worlds, Oaxacan and Los Angeles.

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"Where street art is celebrated" has history slightly rewritten. Ben Stubbs visited Los Angeles for New Zealand based Stuff.co.nz., and met with Gabe Schoenberg, founder of Graff Tours. Schoenberg's gives graffiti tours in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. For this trip, it's L.A. and they start in Venice before going downtown. Stubbs may be getting bad information. He writes that Schoenberg says the Arts District was reclaimed as an "artist's precinct" because of the graffiti, and that "street art was a rehabilitating factor in this area that used to be one of L.A.'s worst." Near Fourth and Merrick, Schoenberg was reported as saying "Graffiti changed the flow of the area." There may not be concern with history being rewritten, but I'll step in and say those Arts District residents and businesses who support the debauchery of street art helped changed the game for the artists.

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Muralist Jonas Never has just completed a mural of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Thermolife building at 1809 Ocean Front Walk. Say what you want, Schwarzenegger's transition from immigrant to terminator to Governor began in the gyms and beaches of Venice. It's on the same building, different wall, that hosts Cronk's mural of Jim Morrison. More at Yo Venice.

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If you read Writing on the Wall, you know about Ramiro Gomez, the artist from San Bernardino whose cardboard figures of gardeners and housekeepers have been installed around the U.S. He got himself some airtime at SoCal Connect.

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MCLA's restoration work has also been getting more media. Willie Herron III, the Chicano artist and lead restorer for "1984 Olympic Freeway Murals," was a guest on "Pocho Hour of Power" with Lalo Alcaraz. Earlier this month, work on Frank Romeo's mural was profiled in the Los Angeles Times.

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SPARC

Another Olympic-era mural that was restored was Judy Baca "Hitting the Wall," headed by SPARC. It was tagged, prompting a deep discussion on Facebook. "Whatever happened to respect and honoring LA's mural legacy? Will we ever see a day when the 'code of the street' is honored once again? There was a time when murals were respected by taggers. This kind of vandalism brings to the forefront why our city needs to invest in viable, sustainable, dynamic and creative outlets for the next generation."

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Community input goes online with a vote over designs for a mural on Marmion Way in Mount Washington. The entries submitted by Lincoln High School student Brandy Cetina, Edward Roybal Learning Center student You Jin Lee, Los Angeles City College student and Highland Park resident Devi J. Ramirez, Franklin High School student Catalina Bolivar and mural designers Alejandro Cañas and Arturo Betanzos; Avenue 50 Studio and the Marmion Way and Avenues Neighborhood Watch will monitor the votes and select the mural design.

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Shepard Fairey's work will be seen in a different kind of public space. Through an appointment with Fiction in Florida, a design firm, Fairey designed the badge for the upcoming ARK1 mission. The mission will run from September 2013 until March 2014 and managed by the non-profit organization Advancement of Science in Space. ADD: Los Feliz Ledger on Fairey's local earth-bound mural on Hyperion.

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Quick Hits: PBS News Hours interviewed Alec Monopoly, who is now having his first solo show at LAB Art Gallery. Neon Tommy reviews #ArtShareLA, curated by Known Gallery. Hanksy, the pun for fun bootleg of Banksy, was busted by LAPD as he was installing works that also promote his upcoming show at Krause Gallery. Design Taxi has more.

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A Manifesto for Murals will be held Tuesday, April 16, 7 p.m. at the Madrid Theater in San Fernando Valley. Power guest line-up has Kent Twitchell, Cheech Marin, Judy Baca, Felicia Filer, Isabel Rojas-Williams, and Levi Ponce.

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"Not all birds are angry," writes ChickenSpeak, the Arts District art observer running rampant around Downtown. The chick operates a blog and is a passive observer of everyday Los Angeles. "This town runs at an inhuman pace, so I leisurely meander, crossing roads (I have my reasons), and highlighting the hidden gems that may get lost among the masses," pecks the fowl via a keyboard. "Plus it's good exercise." If you have a blogroll of people who document street art, this is one to consider.

Top: Wilshire Grand Mural in Gregory Johnson's living room. Photo by Gregory Johnson.

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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