Saturday, October 13, 2012
As part of a class she is taking, Sara and I spent the day at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. While we were there, a Tour Guide mentioned that a new Viewing Platform for an historic mural had opened earlier that week and suggested we take a look. The mural was painted in 1932 by the Mexican artist David Siqueiros, and is entitled "America Tropical".
To say the mural has a controversial history would be an understatement. In 1932, Siqueiros was commissioned to create a mural on a wall overlooking the touristy Olvera Street. At the time, the City of Los Angeles was attempting to foster an identify as a destination for art lovers and was hopeful this new mural would further that cause. However, instead of a tranquil Mexican scene, Siqueiros created a bold political statement against American imperialism. The central figure serves as the mural's most striking element, with an indigenous Mexican bound to a double-cross while an eagle (American eagle?) descends poised to strike.
Within a few months, some portions of the mural were mysteriously painted over. After a few years, the whole mural was entirely whitewashed and abandoned.
Today, the mural is being conserved as a joint effort between the City of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute. Because of the experimental way the mural was created, a deliberate choice was made to preserve the mural rather than restore and repaint it. As such, the mural is just a ghostly version of its previous self. However, it is still a striking image and fascinating part of Los Angeles art and political history.
The new Visitor's Center and Mural Viewing Platform is free and open to the public. A visit is highly recommended.