Monthly Mural Wrap: A Dozen Tags for September 2012

With the Monthly Mural Wrap at Writing on the Wall, we look at notable mural and public art stories from the last month.

SABER tagged the skies again. This time the skywriting planes were dispatched over Manhattan to warn that voting for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a threat to arts funding. "This extreme conservative has no appreciation for the arts or American culture, despite the fact that creative people are the backbone of this country," blogged SABER. "It's time to fight back and prevent these publicly funded and uniquely American organizations from being eliminated." Like SABER's #artisnotacrime assault over City Hall one year ago, this protest used coordinated sky and hash tags: #DefendTheArts and #MittRomneyHatesArts.

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Mitt Romney I Photo by Ed Fuentes

ART CUTS: SABER's call-to-action is in response to comments by the GOP candidate. In interviews, Romney told Fortune and CBS that the first programs he would eliminate, besides Obamacare, are subsidy programs for Amtrak, PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

EQUAL TIME: A Slate photo essay showed murals around the U.S. using Obama's image shows him glowing with the same mythical status as other African-American heroes. A South Los Angeles resident told Slate why: "Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so we can all fly." Bringing that political POV back to earth is the final line in the article: "The murals are signs of trust in the president, but in some cases the paint is beginning to chip away."

DETAILS: The Los Angeles Times takes a look on the conservation methods led by the Getty Conservation Institute, showing the fragility of América Tropical. "Sections that had pulled away from the wall had to be reattached by drilling tiny holes in the plaster and inserting liquid mortar with a syringe."

ALSO IN NY: The family of the late Vertis Hayes, whose WPA era mural "Pursuit of Happiness" was among the murals by African-American artists that were preserved and now part of an art-filled Mural Pavillion, traveled to to New York from Los Angeles to take in opening ceremonies. "To actually see it remain alive after so many years and to emerge in this manner, it's kind of hard to express, it's beyond words," said Vertis Hayes Jr., the artist's son, to the NY Post. "It's been displayed in a way, it couldn't have been done better . . . It's been allowed to breathe; where it was holding its breath all these years, now it's breathing." Hayes studied with muralist Jean Charlot from 1934 to 1935, then completed his set of Harlem Hospital Center murals, in 1937, headed the Federal Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, (1938 to 1939), chaired the art department at LeMoyne College (1938 to 1949), founded the Hayes Academy of Art in 1947, then moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and taught at California State College, Immaculate Heart College from 1971 to 1974.

Activate Vacant I Courtesy of LATaco

YARD YARN: LA Taco looks at South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP) yarn installations in a vacant space by Christopher Anthony Velasco, with a statement by Carribean Fragoza. The installation is from "Activate Vacant," which invites artists to invade abandoned El Monte.

Street Ghosts

VIRTUAL STREET ART: Italian media artist Paolo Cirio takes images of people off Google Street View, blows them up, and post the image where the shot was taken. "In this project, I exposed the specters of Google's eternal realm of private, misappropriated data: the bodies of people captured by Google's Street View cameras, whose ghostly, virtual presence I marked in Street Art fashion at the precise spot in the real world where they were photographed," said the artist. Pictured is a a Google Street View shot taken at 12 Cheshire Street in London (right), alongside Paolo Cirio's re-creation of it. Credit: Paolo Cirio/Google.

Traction and Hewitt I Google Street View

AT HOME: The irony of that project is Google's "cutting-edge face and license plate blurring technology" will ghost out faces on murals, as seen above on Shepard Fairey's "Peace Goddess" in the Arts District at Traction and Hewitt.

HOAX: Instead of tipping off media on this escapades, a member of the merry band of street guerrilla artists that brought you a downtown paper-mache population installation went stealth for the latest project. Wild Life's signs scattered around downtown, with the official city logo and look, were left alone until people started catching on.

Riverside California is home to a tile mosaic by Millard Sheets' studio I Photo by Bebe Korpko for KCET

TILED LEGACY: The greater Los Angeles works of artist, tile muralist, and architect Millard Sheets -- and his design team -- were featured at CurbedLA with their own week in September. The Long Beach Post also dove into two works by Sheets in their area. Sheets and his team also have works in the inland region portfolio of the former Home Savings and Loan buildings, with the San Bernardino branch home to a western theme with pioneer migration, and Redlands and Riverside have their place in the citrus industry recorded as public art. There's been a lot of talk on the tilist, who was the subject for L.A. Conservancy entry for Pacific Standard Time this past March.

DESERT TO CORNFIELD: Palm Springs Life profiles Desert Hot Spring-based artist Aaron Hansen, who was featured in a collaboration with Chili Bean Sunglasses at the 2012 FYF Fest, held in Los Angeles Historic State Park the first weekend in September. The interactive art installation murals were placed throughout the "Not A Cornfield" grounds.

Banksy animated GIF by ABVH

BANKSY IN MOTION: Early in September, MELROSEandFAIRFAX found a great series of BANKSY art made into animated GIFs by ABVH.

Farmer John mural I Courtesy of You-Are-Here

LAST: It's not political. It's not groundbreaking. Yet, it is part of the Los Angeles mural scene. Via the City of Vernon is the folk-flavored "Hog Heaven," a.k.a 'Pig Paradise," mostly known as The Farmer John mural. It was started in 1957 by artist Les Grimes, a commission by Bernard "Barney" Clougherty. Grimes, a scenic painter, worked on the piece for 11 years before dying after a fall from scaffolding while working on part of the sky. The work has continued until 2004 with a line of artists including Arno Jordan, Philip Slagter and Alex Garcia.

An 2000 Los Angeles Times article covering Slagter's restoration states that new addition to the 30,000 square foot mural may place the piece as one of the larger works in the L.A. area. Farmer John officials were asked why joyous pig images decorate the plant, considering its a slaughter house. A plant spokesperson of that time told the paper: "Vernon is fairly drab down here, so we just thought about brightening up the area."

Even LA Taco was charmed by the crazy homage to future carnitas, writing about it in 2008.

Clearly it does not have the status of Siqueiros or Sheets, but since 2012 marks the 55th year since the mural was started, we tip our hat to the popular pork piece.

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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Was that a pork pie hat you were tipping to Les Grimes & Co.?

BTW, any info on the ongoing and, to my mind quite encouraging, resuscitation of the murals along the freeway in the Downtown Slot?