Monthly Mural Wrap: A Dozen Tags for April, 2013


April 2013 is filled with random news of street art, murals, and how they fit in public space. Here's some news and notes we like to tag under Monthly Mural Wrap.

Like neighborhoods in Los Angeles split by freeways in the 1950s and 60s, San Diego's Barrio Logan was divided by transportation infrastructure in the 1970s. What was lost was the promise of a park, so the locals protested and painted. Now known as Chicano Park, a title given by activists on April 22, 1970, it's known for the murals on highway overpass pylons. At its peak, 72 murals were installed. Eighteen have been restored in time for the 43rd Annual Chicano Park Day held on April 20; the park was given more resonance when in February, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The murals have deteriorated due to sea air, water damage, traffic, and general neglect, according to reports. What is touching is that some of the original artists worked on their own pieces and were able to restore them beyond expectations.

On the scene, Angela Carone reported that one of the original muralists, Mario Torero, said the restoration is necessary. "It is our history. It's something that doesn't just belong to the Barrio, it belongs to all San Diego, to the world of art, to American art, because this is very much an American art phenomenon, you know?" With added years of art experience, plus resources funded by a $1.6 million federal grant as overseen by Caltrans, some of the works, first painted in the 1970s with whatever material was available at the time, are being seen with colors brighter than the originals.

Los Angeles-based street artist Deedee Cheriel had an interesting chat with Independent UK. Cheriel, who is having her first solo UK exhibition, talks about dealing with the medium's machismo. "It's a very male-dominated world and it is hard to get in on. I sometimes get jealous when there's another street art show with another ten guys exhibiting, but I think the nature of street art is very masculine," she says.

Man One was commissioned by Staples Center to paint a mural for the Bon Jovi concert, and posted this video about the process. It also gives a peek at his new studio in Lincoln Heights.

In April, KCET's Artbound and SPARC learned they will be among the recipients for National Endowment of the Arts funding. KCET is receiving $75,000 to support Artbound, and the Social Public Art and Resource Center will be using $90,000 to expand the Great Wall of Los Angeles. For fiscal year 2014, President Barack Obama's budget proposal includes a slight increase of 0.14 percent, which works out to be $200,000 more from his fiscal year 2013 request, reports Arts Alliance. If it passes, funding for the NEA would reach $154.5 million.

Artbound's latest installment covers Melrose's place in the Los Angeles graffiti scene that, as MEAR ONE says in the mini-doc, was born in the alleys and "spawned a great deal from Melrose." That doesn't take away from the graffiti legacy of The Belmont Tunnel, Venice Pavilion turned Graffiti Pit, or plaquas around East Los Angeles.

UCLA Unveils Jackie Robinson Mural

When compiling mural news, semantics finds itself in a grey area. At its simplest definition, a mural is art affixed to a wall. Yet, scale is just as important. So when the Mike Sullivan-designed homage to Jackie Robinson was getting early press as being a mural to be revealed at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Field, I wasn't sure if it stretched the idea of what can be called a mural. The symbolism is there, and so is the site-specific connection, as Robinson is seen wearing the uniform of his alma mater near the field named after him. But with the art on a provided "wall," it looks like a memorial more than a large-scale work within an environment. It meets all sentiment it wanted to do, and works as an installation, but I don't know if I would follow the PR and other reporting that refers to it a mural.

Photo by Helen Ly
Photo by Helen Ly

As the news of the Jackie Robinson piece came in, Writing on the Wall's contributing public art photographer Helen Ly came across this tile piece on Solano Canyon Road. It's small, but the scale has a distinct relationship as it responds to a fixed wall: the entrance to the Solano Canyon Community Garden. I'm willing to refer to it as a mural. Of course, these are personal aesthetic guidelines and other opinions may vary, but knowing where the thin lines are becomes important when reporting and documenting murals.

Left: Sid Vicious © Dennis Morris. All rights reserved. Right: Mr. Brainwash via unurth.com
Left: Sid Vicious © Dennis Morris. All rights reserved. Right: Mr. Brainwash via unurth.com

This just in. Mr. Brainwash, aka Los Angeles-based street artist Thierry Guetta, was defending the use of a 1977 Dennis Morris photograph of punk rocker Sid Vicious. He lost the copyright case. Guetta had claimed that mural and previous works were sufficiently altered to be protected by the fair use defence, which allows for the use of copyrighted material for commentary, criticism and parody, reports The Art Newspaper, adding the federal judge rejected Guetta's claim. "Most of [the] defendant's works add certain new elements, but the overall effect of each is not transformative," said the judge. Above is British-based Morris' photograph of Sid Vicious and Mr Brainwash's mural.

The oddest street art news is too irresistible to flush away. Los Angeles-based artist Paul McCarthy's large-scale balloon installation, "Complex Pile," was damaged by a seasonal Hong Kong storm, according to South China Morning Post. The pile of art, and installations by other artists, were deflated after being damaged. It's not the first time the balloon wasn't able to pass wind. In 2008, "Complex Pile" was on a European visit and a gust blew it away from its site. It brought down a power line before landing, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

In case you missed it, Calder Greenwood and Wild Life installed "rubber ducks" in the Los Angeles River. At the time I wrote that it was playful symbolism for the recreational directives of the river. A commenter signing in as "Save The Los Angeles River" wrote that the art does nothing to help the revitalization of the river. "Instead of doing beneficial things such as removing tons of trash and keeping it gone, they will do things like this and think it is fabulous," they wrote. With that in mind, maybe an installation that would support the protest would be a smaller scale "Complex Pile" to be designed to float down the river. It would make a statement against leaving behind debris.

Photo by Forrest
Photo by Forrest
Photo by Forrest
Photo by Forrest

Eastsider LA reported on the "bumpy cinderblock wall" with a mural by Forrest that became a notepad for commentary pushing back against gentrification. The artist added a message inviting gentrification as topical conversation. "I've covered up some graffiti once, then it was tagged again the next night," said Forrest, who updated us on his plans to use future graffiti tagging in the piece. "By tracing it with the colors in the mural, it eventually becomes a big collage on the bottom. Hopefully it will look good and not get me beat up. By the way, the tag "Development = gentrification = displacement of the poor" reads like it was written by a social-minded hipster, aka, part of the gentrification. Discuss.

"OBEY THE GIANT - The Shepard Fairey Story" is a mini-pic by Julian Marshall, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, which happens to be Fairey's alma mater. In this thesis film, a mythical sheen is applied to the street artist and reveals that a corrupt mayor was the muse for OBEY. The 20-minute peek into the street artist's prestigious art school roots argues political POV was the purpose of the posse.

OBEY THE GIANT - The Shepard Fairey Story from Julian Marshall on Vimeo.


Above: Mural in San Diego's Chicano Park, in Barrio Logan. Photo courtesy Angela Carone.

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