Arielle Haze views
In the Old Days:
Dale Hartman snapshots
Helen K. Garber photos
Art at the Rose Cafe'
New Venice Sign
Unpainting the Town
by Anne Alexander, late 1980
A recent article in one of the Sunday magazines laments the demise of a number of murals, particularly in Venice. The title of the piece calls them "vanishing" murals, and the author goes on to speak of these art works in such terms as "missing," "disappeared," and "slipped from public view." Such passive verbs, as if they had been effaced or dissolved by some mysterious fog from outer space.
Upon further examination, however, the Case of the Missing Murals conceals some hard political questions. Take the remarkable collection of works by the Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad, "chopped in half when a wall at the Venice Pavilion was lowered." A nice euphemism for a fascist act of destruction performed solely so the police could keep an eye on the area's nocturnal wino picnics. How strange that this rich-folks magazine deplores the death of the murals to a readership composed of the same good citizens who bitched so loudly about the bums sleeping behind the barbecue pits: the same affluent clone-heads who don't give a rat's ass about art except as an investment. Public art can't be owned by an individual, can't appreciate in value or provide income tax benefits. Historic murals may have their place in the sun - but not if the wall they're painted on conceals the shabby sleeping bags of those who don't participate in the Great American Money Chase. History, schmistory - saw the fucker down.
Moving on to the now obscured boardwalk mural "Venice in the Snow," which "vanished" when an apartment building was erected 18" away, and to yet another LA Fine Arts Squad work on Brooks Avenue adjacent to which a building is currently under construction. Going by such evidence as the caliber of its ads, it would appear that this Sunday magazine's readers are drawn from the same socio-economic group as the contractors and investors who are doing the building. It's unlikely that they're losing very much sleep over the demise of these art works.
Another mural whose disappearance the article laments is Terry Schoonhoven's "Study in Chrome and Gray," which formerly adorned the doors of one of the Milestone School's buildings on Rose Avenue. The space had been let to a day-care center. When the lease ran out and the Milestone people would not renew it, claiming they needed the extra room, there was a widely-publicized protest. Involved parents and other community members picketed, and one dark night in the summer of '79, Schoonhoven's portrait of the desert acquired some extra brushstrokes, as a dissenter spelled out anti-Milestone sentiments in the strongest terms. Eventually the entire thing was painted over.
It's too bad about the defacing of this quite lovely mural, but after all no artist can ever rest secure that his work will be immortal. The real story here is the loss of the Venice Children's Circle premises and its inability to find another appropriate space in the area it served with so much dedication. This facility, with its excellent caregivers, was loved by the children and was a blessing to their families: a good place. Milestone School for children with learning handicaps is also a good place.
Why was the painting damaged? Better we should ask why two good and worthy institutions must fight each other for space to do their work, why two organizations both trying to benefit our children must be at each other's throats. Seen in this light the question of a damaged picture is only a red herring which distracts us from looking long and searchingly at a problem of much heavier implications.
Finally, to Windward Avenue and Schoonhoven's gigantic masterwork, variously called "St. Charles Mural" or "Doge's Downtown." This painting is now somewhat the worse for wear, having sustained "damage from cars and passersby." It is also partially obscured by a chainlink fence which the artist feels "changed the perspective." A good argument might be made for the point of view that the fence only serves to enhance the trompe l'oeil effect. Be that as it may, Schoonhoven is quoted thus: "I can't look at that painting now....in fact I don't like looking at Windward Avenue any more." It seems unlikely that Terry S., who has been described by another journalist as a wryly humorous, philosophical type, meant it in quite that way.
Rip Cronk - old version of Venus mural
© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman