From the words of poets, to the streets of Skid Row, and a visitor from abroad, murals are still storytellers with some bite, and allows March to roar in like a political lion. Here is this month's sampling of mural news, including works with meaning and social context.
There are changes being made to the mural at Third and Main, the subject of previous posts asking what is an ad, and what is art. The city has been quiet, but district offices and departments are aware, and making decisions about the walls that are challenging to the spirit of the mural ordinance.
When artists Barbara Carrasco and Sandy Rodriguez led a mural workshop at the 2014 Tomás Rivera Conference, held at University California, Riverside, they used feminism and grace to raid the campus, and stories and technique with inland mural-nistas. Starting with a monochrome image of the late Tomás Rivera, near a road through the Texas landscape (painted by Carrasco), workshop participants added images that represented Rivera's life, telling the story of his path from a child of the fields, then as a renowned Chicano poet and author. Rivera passed away in 1984 while chancellor of UCR.
On Sunday, March 23, Scripps College will host "Picturing Mexico Symposium" and dive into the works of Alfredo Ramos Martínez, the forgotten Los Angeles muralist, currently being exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of California Art through April 20. Topics include "Making Religion Modern: Alfredo Ramos Martínez and his Contemporaries" by curator Amy Galpin; "Conserving Alfredo Ramos Martínez's The Flower Vendors" by Aneta Zebala, Art Conservator; and a look at printmaking with "The Role of Maria Sodi de Ramos Martínez" by Mary Goodwin, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. There will be a panel discussion moderated by former L.A. Times art critic Suzanne Muchnic. It's free, and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.
The Westside, South L.A., and Miracle Mile are the final March locations for the free Metro Artists Workshops that give public artists information on how apply for upcoming projects. Reservations are required.
Street signage becomes commentary with "Skid Row Super Mural," by Winston Death Squad, Wild Life, Chris Como, Azure, and Tre, as conceived by "General" Jeff, founder of the Skid Row's community activist group Issues and Solutions. In a (long) video leading up to the painting of the piece, Jeff says the mural will become a landmark: "People gonna come from all over the world to check out our skid row sign. You watch." The typographic use white on green, and the city's seal, are smart details that make a powerful statement in this site-specific work. The final message in the video is Blaze lobbying for Skid Row to be the official name of the neighborhood, not Central City East. If it becomes a series, additional signage could be one of the better art installations done in Skid Row.
At the Social Public Art and Resource Center, guest muralist from Scotland, Richie Cumming, painted "Birds Don't Recognize Borders" in the parking lot wall of SPARC. It's a response to the changes in his homeland that has the artist comment about border politics around the globe, he said while working on-site. "The people of Scotland will be voting in September, deciding if they want to still want to be part of the UK, or to be an independent country." Richie's research was also about using online media to cross borders. The artist used social networking to find mural enclaves that would welcome this sort of social and political discourse, and the road led to Venice. (And the beach weather may have been a factor for the Scottish Winter bird's migratory visit).
"Jeff Koons was in town this week for a conversation with John Waters. He said many things, and didn't talk about other things, and all I could think about was painting about the things he didn't discuss," wrote Ramiro Gomez on Facebook. Which means some art would soon follow as a response. In came "Carmelina cleaning in the Jeff Koons exhibition." Plus: It's the last weekend for his first solo gallery exhibition at Chinatown's Charlie James Gallery, "Domestic Scenes" (through March 8). And his large painting, "No Splash," was acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and will in the upcoming exhibition "Prospect 2014."
The future of art in Los Angeles is the topic at Flower Pepper Gallery in Pasadena on March 15 (1 p.m.). The one hour chat is moderated by Daniel "The World's Most Adorable Art Critic" Rolnik, and the future will be heard by Mat "Coagula" Gleason, Marlene "Picard Pick Art" Picard, Jim "Stay Up!" Daichendt, A." Installation Mag " Moret, and Khoi "Arrested Motion" Nguyen.
Plastic Jesus installation "Hollywood's Best Kept Secret" attracted media attention for its commentary on drugs in the industry. "The inspiration for much of my street art comes from news and current affairs, so timing is hugely important. And although I never wished the piece to spoil anyone's enjoyment of the Awards, hopefully the timing would make them think about the issue," said the street artist.
A mural titled "A shenere un besere velt" was defaced, then had an additional tag become counter commentary, according to Jewish Journal. "We invite those responsible for the slogan-painting to meet with us to discuss far more effective ways of encouraging progress toward a lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian states and their peoples," said Ruth Judkowitz, chair of the Los Angeles affiliate of Workmen's Circle, whose headquarters are housed in the building with the mural. Eliseo Art Silva is the artist, and the title translates into the Yiddish phrase "A more beautiful and better world," according to the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. Kevin Stricke wrote about the mural in January for KCET.
It's no real secret I have been doing a bulk of art reporting and commentary from Las Vegas. To show I'm hanging with a rough crowd, my image -- for what it's worth -- is one of the portraits on tapestry by L.A.-based artist Kent Anderson Butler. It's part of the current exhibition, "Avant-Kitsch," at Amanda Harris Gallery of Contemporary Art in downtown Las Vegas. The new works by Butler, who was profiled at ArtBound in December 2012, features regional artists and arts writers, including Mat Gleason and video artist Bill Viola. My "Hey, I'm a mural" glee was adjusted by a family member who requested the massive tapestry be recreated in smaller scale, suitable for purchase. "I need a tortilla warmer," said the smarty-pants cousin. Not funny. (O.K., it is).
Above: UCR students Kaylee Adamski and Aurora Godinez waiting to reveal the workshop mural on Tomás Rivera I Photo: viewfromaloft