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Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Muralist Los Angeles Painter Could Become Part Of A New Revival

By Maryellen Lamb

A muralist Los Angeles walking tour is a showcase of an open air art museum. For generations outdoor murals have been decorating ethnic neighborhoods throughout the city. It will be clear to any perceptive observer that Mexican themes have inspired immigrant residents. To see a majority of the some fifteen hundred wall paintings will take a while to see and absorb. Little wonder that this was for many decades the world capital of such outdoor art works.

Government officials also demonstrated its support, for a time, by sponsoring many of these artistic impressions. There were 400 sponsored works were produced between 1971 and 1999. Yet today Lyon, France is known as the world capital of murals and a school has been established to share these skills. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the city government has generally banned this practice since 2002.

Since the ban in 2002 new murals have been allowed a limited space. The result has led to a greatly diminished output. But, there may be some change in the air. Ten years after the moratorium in October of 2012, the Department of City Planning passed an ordinance lifting the ban. The ordinance still awaits the review of the city council and the Planning and Land Use Management Commission before it comes into effect.

Mexican painters began the muralist movement in the 1930s. The heirs to the early masterpieces reflected an expressive artistic ancestry that hearkens back to the works of great artists of the early 20th century in Mexico. The first recognized modern work was the painting by Gerardo Murillo that was painted in 1913.

A movement for reform encouraged by public art boomed in Mexico with government support during the early 20th century. This voice for reforms was led by artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera during the 1930s. These artists worked on both sides of the MexicanAmerican border as evidenced by the recently refurbished masterpiece by Siqueiro on Olvera Street. The bold style of this Mexican muralism movement was continued by Chicano artists thereafter.

The paintings reflect a mix of past history and the present, a combined Mexican American sensibility. They represent the composition of the ethnic neighborhoods and the people who reside in them. Some are embodiments of political commentary. What makes this a unique art form is that it has been a collaboration of multiple artists and influences. Community members have co produced a representation of the community and the elements that influence its inhabitants.

The 1968 mural by Antonio Bernal in Del Ray, a Central Valley community is credited as the first Chicano mural. It is situated on the wall of the Teatro Campesino building. Subsequently, the walls in immigrant Mexican neighborhoods in California became such cultural identifiers. The movement flourished in East Los Angeles, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park and Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Eventually, a movement driven by Mexican immigrants spread to other ethnic groups.

The Cultural Affairs Department today monitors the condition of this outdoor art. There are many factors that leave them in a state of constant jeopardy. Maintenance work is a prerequisite for maintaining the vitality of these landmarks that distinguish Los Angeles from other cities. Muralist los angeles painters have left their inimitable branding reflecting community interests, issues and ideals.
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