Saturday, October 13, 2012

America Tropical

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.

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