Points of Special Interest: Siquieros Mural (Italian Hall), Royce Hall, Venice Beach, CA

Points of Special Interest: Siquieros Mural (Italian Hall), Royce Hall, Venice Beach, CA


Siqueiros Mural and the Historic Italian Hall. "Near the plaza of El Pueblo, where the village of Los Angeles had been established late in the 18th Century, a painter was hard at work in the late summer and early fall of 1932. On a south-facing exterior wall on the second floor of Italian Hall, once a thriving community benevolent association, the great Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1898-1974) had been commissioned by F. K. Ferencz, director of the Plaza Art Gallery, to paint a mural that would be called "America Tropical." [÷] With youthful exuberance, Siqueiros had exclaimed, "Let us live our marvelous, dynamic age!" Recalling the fiery rhetoric of the Italian Futurist painters, he sought to inject his art with a vigor commensurate to the technological and political upheavals that marked the tumultuous new century. [÷] Directly in front of the ancient temple, smack in the visual center of the mural, he painted an Indian lashed with ropes to a wooden cross. Above the crucified figure an American eagle spreads its wings, its razor-sharp talons clutching the cross.[÷] Not surprisingly, when Siqueiros' mural was finished and publicly unveiled, pandemonium ensued. A crucified Indian peon and revolutionary soldiers attacking the symbol of the United States were not seen by the city's political leadership as flattering images. Nearly a third of the mural, the portion visible from Olvera Street below, was quickly covered over with white paint. A few months later, Siqueiros was deported. [÷] The painting ranks as the fountainhead for the modern mural movement in the city. Not surprisingly, since the late 1960s its aggressive street poetry has been of special interest to the Chicano movement and its artists. [÷] The significance of the mural places the current conservation effort among the most important the Getty has yet undertaken."

[From: "Two Murals, Two Histories Sixty years ago, David Alfaro Siqueiros created a scathing image of California colonization, while Dean Cornwell took a more Establishment view; one can be seen now, the other will be restored to view within a year," by Christopher Knight. Los Angeles Times, Feb 20, 1994. pg. 7]

Venice Beach turns 100 in 2005. "Venice at 100: A Touch of Eden:Ó KCRW audio documentary by Anthea Raymond (host/producer) on "legendary eccentric beach town" Venice California, celebrating its centennial in 2005, includes reflections from former State Historian Kevin Starr on Venice CA as embodying late 19th century visions of Southern California as the new Mediterranean; short reading by Tony Scibella, recently deceased bongo-playing Beat poet who lived in Venice; information about the two dozen gondoliers who came from Italy at the turn of the 20th century to animate the canals.

Listen to program at: http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/ot/ot041231venice_at_100_a_touc

UCLAŪs Royce Hall and the Lombard Style. "Beyond the Main Quad a chasm opens up to reveal the rugged hills of Southern California, and modern buildings crowd around in a jumbled institutional collage. But under the shadow of those brick-and-stone quasi-basilicasůJosiah Royce Hall, Haines Hall, Powell Library and Kinsey Hallůone can sense an academic Los Angeles unity that was never quite achieved. [÷] Designed in 1927 by the firm of Allison & Allison, Royce Hall was meant to help define the "Lombard" or Northern Italian nature of the then brand-new campus. Master planner George W. Kelham and the regents were reminded of that area by the arroyos and scrubby vegetation. They then turned to the forms of the Italian Renaissance in the hope of duplicating the sense of cultural dawn in the wilds of Southern California.

Royce Hall is so successful that it has become a symbol for UCLA. It graces the cover of countless brochures and has been the inspiration for many architects who have since filled out the campus with mostly inferior buildings. [÷] Royce Hall has become a model for some of our best institutional buildings. Vaguely Mediterranean, vaguely Classical and definitely responsive to the world around it, such buildings give a dignified and appropriate appearance to the otherwise all too fantastic urban games of our city.

From: "UCLA's Royce Hall: Shining Star in Ensemble of Sensuous Masses," by Aaron Betsky, Los Angeles Times, Apr 16, 1992. p.2