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Westside Mural 'Syncopation' Gets New Home [UPDATED]

[Above photo added Saturday, September 8: "Syncopation" being unveiled at Westside Neighborhood School. Courtesy of WNS.]

Ed Massey's 2004 "Syncopation" has been installed on the grounds of a private school and will be dedicated this week in a small ceremony.

Westside Neighborhood School, or WNS, is the new canvas for "Syncopation," a mural that had been at Culver Plaza since 2004, until the building was demolished earlier this year. It was there that a canvas was stretched and affixed to precisely fit the facade; the artists then painted the panels with acrylics by house mops from the ground, allowing the artist to be free from scaffolding.

"Often when a building is demolished, the artwork is lost forever," said Massey. "In this case, we were able to save it and reuse it in a valuable way."

The artist converted "Syncopation" into a series of 11 20-feet high stretched canvases, which is now installed in non-continuous sections on the central administration and education buildings for WNS and will be dedicated this week with most of its scale intact. "The new configuration of Syncopation will be approximately 20 percent smaller," said Massey.

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In its first location, the Massey abstract was readable from a moving vehicle. Now installed as walk-up art, it changes the scope of the work, something the artist has considered. The reinterpretation of the work comes from the interaction of the piece in its new setting, and as a sectional installation, said Massey. "In relation to the work and its evolution, the title 'Syncopation"' -- shifting, dividing or unexpected rhythmic beats -- especially resonates for me, both in the visual dynamics of the work itself, and the life it has and will lead."

That makes for an interesting comparison in the role of murals. In the ethnic enclaves of Los Angeles, the preferred method of transforming public space is having murals last for decades and define a region. On the Westside, "Syncopation" is an example of public art that redefines a space.

"Both locations -- as nearly all do -- previously existed without any public art or public interaction with visual stimuli," said the artist. "Syncopation helped define and refine a newer, not-the-norm urban environment in Culver City." Massey now expects the art to redefine the WNS educational space and surrounding setting in the growing Del Rey creative/tech/urban hub.

"When Ed and Dawn Massey learned that the Culver City building . . . was coming down, they hoped that the artwork could find a new home in an equally inspiring, albeit different, way," said Head of School, Brad Zacuto. With the work relocated to the school's exterior, WNS is the new custodian of Syncopation. Zacuto said it is an honor, and believes the public art will serve as a "beacon for our entire community to inspire creativity, innovation and expressions of hope."

Ed Massey Syncopation at new home

It some ways it is a different mindset as to what the expected fate of a mural can be, in particular for Los Angeles works that are created to be sturdy markers not to be tampered with. In pockets of the Westside, with change always expected, some large-scale murals anticipate that they will be evacuated.

"I often paint the works utilizing an integrated sectional panel system that comprises a single work -- but in which the respective individual panels also possess the quality to be reinterpreted and exhibited as a collection or as singular works of art in a variety of sites and settings," said Massey.

"Urban renewal is a predictable and ongoing process. Buildings and walls are often multi-purpose and functional and over time may be rebuilt, redeveloped, or require structural repairs," he adds. "Art painted directly on a wall surface may be permanently destroyed along with the wall if it cannot be separated from the wall . . . or if the process and science required are highly specialized or cost-prohibitive."

"The process that I have selected provides one opportunity for public art to live on and for that art to perhaps interact with multiple populations and locations over time," adds Massey.

This idea of refurbished art was seen in previous projects from Massey, also known for painting 156 beach lifeguard towers -- 40 art panels on each tower -- to convert them into a temporary public art called "Summer of Color" for Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors in 2012. After the exhibition, many of the panels were donated to social and civic institutions to be reused as public art. His Manhattan based "Garden in Transit" had individual panels installed on 5,400 NYC taxis as a civic project. Now many of the panels are around the U.S., including some being installed in buildings in New Orleans and the Gulf as part of the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, according to the artist.

"Syncopation" stays local and the ceremonial unveiling will be held the morning of Sept. 6, 2012.

Syncopation detail I

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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