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Mural Panel Held in Litte Tokyo

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 12:25AM
Mural Speak Ed Fuentes

"We have to come together" says painter Noni Olabisi at the Second Annual Forum on L.A. Traditional & Graff Art Muralism. Behind Olabisi is speaker and panel co-sponsor Man One.

On Sunday afternoon, a panel designed to create dialogue between Los Angeles' two schools of murals opened with a documentary about an art controversy over 75 years old. That sense of perspective led into a five and a half hour discussion at the 2nd Annual Forum on L.A. Traditional & Graff Art Muralism.

The event, held at the National Center For The Preservation of Democracy, brought together a balanced selection of painters and a sturdy audience.

The panel opened with a documentary on the 1932 Olvera Street mural América Tropical, the David Alfaro Siqueiros work that was whitewashed soon after its completion. That introduced graf artists, who feel their murals are censored with no regard, to a shared history with a mural over 75 years old.

The panelists included founder of the Social & Public Art Resource Center, muralist and professor Judy Baca whose Downtown works include “Hitting the Wall: Women in the Marathon" on the 110 Freeway. It was painted in 1984 and restored in 2004 (but tagged heavily weeks after its restoration).

Also speaking was Yreina D. Cervántez, the muralist and professor whose work can be see at 5th and Crocker (1993’s “What I See Can Be Me”) and under First Street in City West (1989's "La Ofenda").

Rounding out the panel were painter / muralist Noni Olabisi; co-founder of East Los Streetscapers, painter Wayne Healy; early Los Angeles Graffiti artist Chaz Bojórquez; and Director of Crewest Gallery, Man One, whose gallery also co-sponsored the panel. Man One’s graf mural project in the Arroyo Seco Channel that was whitewashed by the County of Los Angeles––despite permits and a paper trail was secured––was brought up as an example of censorship.

While everyone agree that murals are a cherished part of Los Angeles, there's still a fuzzy line when it comes to the definition of what makes a wall painted by aerosol a work of art. Also raised was the notion of traditional murals reflecting the community they sit in, not adding to a graff artist's portfolio of notoriety and self-image.

A case was made that the billboard companies, currently suing the city for the right to put up commercial messages at will, are really the same as the low-level taggers who mark up murals. In the efforts, both are tapping meager resources that could be used to create new works of art.

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