Monthly Mural Wrap: 12 Quick Tags for June

Recently restored Tree of Knowledge mural by Josefina Quezada. Photo by LA County Library.

Summer is here and outdoor artists are out getting busy. Around Southern California,  some murals are restored and some are lost, kids are joining the fray of installation art, a banned L.A. artist is importing his style in Detroit, and a painting called "Mural" comes to L.A. to be restored. Here's a rundown of mural and public art related stories for the month of June.

RESTORED: A restoration of Josefina Quezada's "Tree Of Knowledge" (1978) was completed June 27 by the Social Public Art and Resource Center (SPARC) and County of L.A. Civic Art Program, reports SPARC. Sometimes known as the READ mural, the 10-foot by 40-foot work on the exterior of the Anthony Quinn Library in East Los Angeles was designed by Teresa Chacon, and painted by artists from the Chicana Action Service Center under the direction of Quezada, according to a 2009 survey of the County's civic art collection by Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Dedication details are pending. "Tree Of Knowledge" sits at 3965 East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue.

REMEMBERED: Quezada passed away in Mexico in May 2012, and luckygrrr looks back at her impact on the mural community at "A Lifetime of Fighting for Public Art" at The Autry's blog. "When she painted some of her work, she would always ask her family, and at one time, she asked me what would I want to see in a certain work," said Oscar Castillo at The Autry's blog. "We would tell her and she would get inspiration from us as to what images to paint. She absolutely embraced everybody's opinion and she got inspiration from us. And we got ... well, we got a lot of inspiration from her."

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RESTORED II: Eliseo Art Silva's 150-foot mural "Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana" (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy) marked a six-month restoration, including being updated with additional images of people and events. A rededication ceremony was held May 12 for the 1995 mural in Historic Filipinotown, considered the largest to tell the story of Filipino-Americans. "My goal is to achieve what the 'Tres Grandes [Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco]' achieved in Mexico," said Silva in an interview with BakitWhy. "To reclaim their cultural heritage and aid in the advancement of a social and cultural revolution that is much needed in our motherland; the Republic of the Philippines.

Artists struggle to save 'Story of Our Struggle' in East Los Angeles
Artists struggle to save 'Story of Our Struggle' in East Los Angeles

STILL STRUGGLING: "The Story of Our Struggle" is still up in the air. A meeting between lawyers representing the muralists and the development company was held last week, according to EGP News. The developer and charter school representatives said destroying the murals for a new school is not in their the agenda, and renderings of the building with the murals re-installed on a new Charter School were presented. The artists want the building's facade, once home to the First Street Store, to be preserved as it is considered a part of overall aesthetic of the street corner. Ownership of the 18 tiled murals are technically pending and could be transferred to the property owner if an agreement isn't made. The artists, if they do not agree with the new plans, are given an option to remove the works, but it would at their cost. The value of the mural is not in dispute. It's considered important by all parties, including the County of Los Angeles. The building, not so much.

ONE IN. ONE OUT: While artist Jose Antonio Aguirre was basking in his week-old new glass-mosaic mural, a previous 2006 work at McKinley School is being threatened, reports the Pasadena Star-News. Aguirre received a letter from Pasadena Unified School District's stating he has 90 days claim his McKinley School mural and remove it at his "sole cost and expense." The artist estimates removing the 111-foot-long, 4 1/2-foot-tall mural, "which was worked on by hundreds of students and volunteers, and funded with donations and created with 65,000 tiny Venetian glass tiles," would cost about $50,000. The space is needed for a playground renovation.

NOT THAT SIZE MATTERS: British street artist INSA painted three sides of Art Share (S. Hewitt St. and E. 4th Place) with his street style that's inspired by the curves and angles of women's heels. A number of blogs have picked up that the claim that at 9,300 square feet it's the "largest mural in L.A.," a factoid that seems to be culled from a press release. That can be refuted. We would have to bring out the calculators to measure out the almost mile-long "Great Wall of Los Angeles." Showing a power of scale and style of realism, "Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market Mural" by Thomas Suriya (1986) at 28 feet x 110 feet (6,600 square feet) only seems to dwarf the slightly larger INSA graphic based mural. Kent Twitchell's "Harbor Freeway Overture" is 11,000 square feet. Frank Stella's "Dusk" on S. Olive Street between 4th and 5th, now best seen from inside the Gas Company Tower Building, measures in at 35,000 square feet.

TRICKS: East Los Angeles artist James Haunt has been commissioned to create street art on the X Games Street Course that can withstand riders and their tricks. Haunt's work will focus on the "Dinosaur," a curvy track with staircase course featuring a four-and-a-half-foot drop by California Ramp Works' Dug Ketterman. "I wasn't trying to invent something new, just trying to bring something fun -- an art piece -- to the course," said Ketterman at ESPN. "Honestly, it's pretty surreal," said the artist, Haunt. "It's probably one of the more spotlighted things I've ever done." During the weekend of the games, June 28 through July 1, Haunt will be live painting a 16 foot x 8 foot X-game themed mural.

TOKEN FAIREY WATCH: As can be expected, Shepard Fairey is having a busy summer. If not doing a major mural in London or Paris, he is tweaking logos. To mark their 50th Anniversary as Rock and Roll demigods, The Rolling Stones asked the street artist to update their rebellious lips and tongue logo first designed by John Pasche in 1970. Fairey is also an co-executive producer for Imagine Entertainment's new version of George Orwell's "1984." Screenwriter Noah Oppenheim was just announced as the screenwriter. You get one guess who will be doing the film's poster art.

STILL AT WORK: Artist Revok moved to inner-city Detroit after being banned from Los Angeles, and now is one of the lead artists in that region's growing street art scene. It even has a name; Detroit Beautification Project. Administration and curators behind the murals are Hamtramck-based arts group Contra Projects and the owners of Royal Oak-based 323East gallery, reports The Detroit News. When asked why, Contra Projects director Matthew Eaton pointed to the illegal graffiti tags to say "What's the downside of letting artists make the city look more colorful and engaging?"

ARTISTS IN TRAINING: L.A.'s temporary paper-mache installations artists may have another posse to reckon with. Artist David Brockhurst led children in the use of recycled wood from an Earth Day mural project to create Crazy Cactus Art Project, part of a Main St Murals after-school youth program titled "Discovering the Mojave Desert." The outcome of the Desert Discovery Center in Barstow project is free standing cactus installations.

Millard Sheets' Rose Bowl mural was located in the lobby of this Home Savings branch in Pasadena
Millard Sheets' Rose Bowl mural was located in the lobby of this Home Savings branch in Pasadena

REVIVED: Claremont artist Millard Sheets did a 50-foot mural of the first Rose Parade in 1963 at a former Home Savings lobby on Colorado Boulevard. It was stored away, then restored, and expected to be installed in the lobby of Pasadena City College's Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. Tony Sheets, Millard Sheets' son, has become a archivist of his father's work, as well as having his own career as an artist. "As it stands right now, it's on a 25-year loan to PCC," he told Pasadena Star-News., noting it was important for the piece to stay intact and visible to the public.

MORE RESTORATION: There is a lot of art buzz about Jackson Pollock's 70-year old "Mural" being shipped to the Getty's Conservation Institute for a makeover. The 1943 painting was a gift to the UI in 1951 from Peggy Guggenheim, who commissioned the work for her apartment residence. The 8-feet by 20-feet piece is considered a benchmark for Pollack, a move toward abstract forms and hints of his future drip painting style. The scale and title is Pollock making a nod to influences, said UI: "He was also influenced by surrealism and by Picasso and by the Mexican muralists David Siqueiros, Jose Orozco, and Diego Rivera. Rivera known for his extensive use of symbolism that inspired Pollock to create in his large-scale paintings." Pollock was also a student of regional artists and muralist Thomas Hart Benton, but felt he was unable to match his technical skill, said Henry Adams at Smithsonian Magazine in 2009. Adams also added Pollock may have buried his name in the painting. If so, that gives Pollock something in common with street artists who use their moniker as an abstraction of type.

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