Monthly Mural Wrap: A Dozen Tags for October, 2013

Muralists wait for no one. Once the ordinance was passed, permits were issued and the month brought reminders that the Los Angeles mural movement has an international reputation, its original practitioners and instigators go back decades, and the future promises new approaches to bringing art to the streets.

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L.A. collective ASCO to be filmed for Mur Murs by Agnes Varda. Mural by Willie Herron. Self Help Graphics, June 14, 1980. | Photo: Courtesy of artist Diane Gamboa

"Mur Murs" is a 1981 documentary on Los Angeles murals by French director Agnès Varda, a time capsule of art, some lost, that also becomes an essay on a reshaped city. When I first saw "Murs Murs" in the late 80s, it was clear a global audience was offered a different view of Los Angeles and its muralists. "She certainly did put murals on the international art radar," says Isabel Rojas-Williams, executive director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. "Mur Murs," which translates to "Mural Murals," will be screened Nov. 13 at the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre. "Agnes will be there," adds Rojas-Williams. For another perspective on Varda, read "PHOTOS: LACMA's 'Agnès Varda In Californialand'" at Artbound.

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Regular readers here are up-to-date on the politics and impact of murals from the Los Angeles region, so the recent video report at the federally funded Voice of America was more overview than enlightening. What you can take away from it is how Los Angeles muralism were represented by Kent Twitchell , David Alfaro Squierios, and Lydia Emily, soon after her street art in Skid Row was completed. "Los Angeles officials, once hostile to street art, have embraced it if done with permission of the property owners," reports Mike O'Sullivan.

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Instant Mural in the UK I Photo: Antonietta Sacco

ASCO is on a European tour with an exhibition prompted by the 2011 LACMA retrospective "Elite of the Obscure." It's now at Nottingham Contemporary, and Patssi Valdez was there, leading a project that plays off costumes inspired by ASCO's Paper Fashion Show (1980). "Amazing art pieces came out of being limited to paper," said Valdez to UK reporter Riah Matthews. Not only did Valdez work with Nottingham artist Nadim Chaudry on the paper project, there was also a fun collaboration with young UK school children. "In the UK, Asco's Instant Mural Movement is taking off," says Gronk via Facebook.

ASCO was also mentioned stateside in a recent review: "One begins to wonder if it's even possible to organize a major art exhibition devoted to an ethnic or minority group," writes Philip Kennicott at the Washington Post. His review of "Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art" notes how there must be more provocative work, and "more interesting things to say about it." What stands on its own is ASCO's 1974 "Decoy Gang War Victim," which he calls "work that has become or should be canonical."

Our America I Photograph by Amy Vaughters, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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The City of Pasadena approved their first Public Art Master Plan in October, reports the Pasadena Star News. A cultural task force helped staff develop a plan that recommends public art "reflect the city's identity, educate the public, beautify the city and increase walkability" in the city. "I believe we are on the threshold of new and exciting possibilities for public art in Pasadena," advisory group member Ann Scheid said. A first step is, of course, funding.

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Artbound's October offerings include "Santa Ana Seeks Artists to Beautify Utility Boxes" by Evan Senn, the call for artists to apply for a project in Santa Ana that wants to use those "ubiquitous utility boxes" as a canvas. On Oct. 15,, Councilman Jose Huizar District 14 introduced the nine artists commissioned to paint utility boxes along First Street in Boyle Heights-- more on that soon.

Joshua Callaghan utility box in L.A. | Photo: Courtesy of Artbound

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Graffiti artist turned gallery artist Van Saro is profiled in "Saro: Life and Art on the Streets" by Liz Ohanesian. She writes the photo realistic oils by Saro are a "glimpse into the decaying city facades that were once his canvas" as being "indicative of where he's been and where he might be heading."

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With 18 works by five artists, The Collection at RiverPark is a Oxnard retail complex with a commitment to public art. "Charting a Course" by architect Tyson Cline and photographer Stephen Schafer was installed in October and made of "large metal rectangles connected at precise angles that resemble a partially unfolded map measuring 10 feet high and 20 feet in length." It makes what Schafer calls a "kinetic mural. But it's not moving -- you are," according to the Ventura County Reporter.

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In La Jolla, "The Shores" by Catherine Opie was installed Oct. 28 on Girard Avenue, making a California Pictorialists piece the most current addition to the Murals of La Jolla portfolio. In November, a collaborative work by Robert Irwin and Philipp Scholz Rittermann will be installed, the 12th mural on private property throughout the city. "The Murals project has brought people from around the world to our community and we are proud to be the force behind this public art project."said mural chair Matthew Browar.

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The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts converted the former Beverly Hills Post Office into a theater, and revives the lobby that features WPA murals made for the building. Eight Depression-era frescos by California artist Charles Kassler are the only two remaining sets of WPA frescos in the California Federal Building system, according to KTLA. "Painted as homage to the WPA program, the six murals on the north and south walls depict laborers and artisans working on WPA projects." Don't most historic post offices have New Deal murals? Yes, but they are not from the WPA. Post office murals were handled under the U.S. Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts from 1934 to 1943.

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Detail of The Mountain Charmers by Christina Angelina /  Fin DAC. Photo: B4_Flight

Los Angeles based artist Christina Angelina and London's Fin DAC had a busy October with duo painting projects in Denver, Minneapolis, then Palm Springs.

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Photo: Erwin Recinos

Coup Street brought out artists to McLogan in downtown LA, reports LA Taco, who posted photos by Erwin Recinos.

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Photo © 2013 Isabel Rojas-Williams

It was noted the first new mural permits were issued to LA Freewalls for two works, one by RISK/Fairey, and another by Ron English. The other form of permit registers previous murals, and the first covenant goes to a series that is broken down to honor the four different artists on one site: "Fire In My Mind" by Axa (Arturo Nevarez), "Darwin" by Man One (Alex Poli), "Chew On It" by VyalOne (Jamie Reyes), and "In Tune with The Sun and The Moon," also by Vyal.

Pictured: "The Mountain Charmers" by in DAC and Angelina Christina. Palm Springs, Calif. Photo: B4_Flight via Street Art News

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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