A Touch of Mural Pays Homage to the Streets of Venice

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A mural is a way for the walls of a building to leave behind volumes of love letters to a neighborhood.

This romantic inquiry began with a tweet from Greg Renoff, Associate Professor of History at Drury, who is all about scholarly discourse on pop culture, specifically Van Halen from the early 1980s. Now, the arena rock band behind lust ballads "Everybody Wants Some" and "Hot For Teacher" may limit romance as defined by teen males of the era, but Renoff's research led him to a retro photo of the boys sitting on a late model caddy in front of an unmarked mural.

The publicity photograph left enough clues to be identified as "St. Charles Painting," the Venice Beach masterwork of the late Terry Schoonhoven, completed in 1979. It was the artist's own love letter to the street, a mirror image of arches of Windward Circle's architecture, given a romanticized view past Pacific Avenue. A white chapel was in the immediate background, looking past serene homes, and the San Gabriel Mountains pushed closer to the beach in Surrealist scale of distance.

Terry Schoonhoven ''St. Charles Painting'' (1979) Acrylic on Stucco ©Terry Schoonhoven, 1979

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"It functions as a large empty stage set with real people acting out their lives in front of it," Schoonhoven is quoted as saying about his work on the wall.

On the other side of that same building is Rip Cronk's "Venice Reconstituted," from 1989. Still vibrant, the mural was captured in a film that was a love note to the city. In "L.A. Story," the 1991 comedy starring Steve Martin as weatherman Harris K. Telemacher, the mural is the backdrop to rediscovering love, and the building was the home to a new love of Telemacher, SanDeE (Sarah Jessica Parker).

Schoonhoven's mural has since faded away from 21 Windward Avenue. His wife is on the record stating that her husband accepted decay and didn't want his work to be restored.

After that was confirmed, muralist Jonas Never was commissioned to create a new piece in 2012. His mural also became an homage to the streets of Venice, this time by marking a film history moment. "Touch of Venice" is a play off the celebrated tracking shot that opened Orson Welles' 1958 thriller "Touch of Evil," considered one of the last film noirs, which used Windward Avenue to stand in for a street in Mexico.

If all those loose facts were tied together by a new romantic comedy with real affection to the city, which opened with a touch of shadowy chaos against a backdrop of murals (and use a soundtrack with blistering guitar), Los Angeles would have a film that works as a Valentine's Day card.

© Jonathan Alcorn 2014
© Jonathan Alcorn 2014

A special thank you to photographer Jonathan Alcorn for taking shots of "Touch of Venice."

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