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Historic Olvera Street mural conserved; set to be unveiled

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, at 03:51PM
Courtesy of the Getty Conservation Institute

Conservation work on the DTLA mural.

A historic Olvera Street mural, once whitewashed because of its controversial nature, has been conserved and is set to be unveiled again to the public on October 9. "América Tropical," painted about 80 years ago by prolific Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, is located on the outside of the Italian Hall in downtown L.A.

After a $9.95 million joint endeavor between the City of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the image has been "stabilized," is protected by a canopy from the sun and rain and will be viewable from a rooftop platform.

"'América Tropical' has been an inspiration to numerous artists, educators, and social activists about the importance of freedom and expression since its unveiling in 1932," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement.

The Getty says the painting depicts, "a Mexican Indian tied to a double cross with an American eagle above him, and revolutionary soldiers - one aiming at the eagle - closing in." This politically charged imagery lead to the mural's partial and then total, whitewashing.

Because of this, and the picture's weathering over time due of its outdoor exposure, Getty officials say the colors have faded as has the clarity of the image; but they have chosen not to repaint it in an effort to "preserve the artist's hand."

The project includes a museum located inside the Sepulveda House, called the América Tropical Interpretive Center, which has also been created to pay tribute to Siqueiros' work.

"Providing public access to 'América Tropical' has been central to this project," said director of GCI Tim Whalen in a statement. "We are so pleased to bring 'América Tropical' back to the people of Los Angeles."

Councilman José Huizar called the artist the "father of L.A.'s mural movement" and this year, the City Council deemed April 20 'Siqueiros Day.'

The conserved DTLA mural will be unveiled and the Interpretive Center doors open to the public at noon on October 9. From then on, the museum will be open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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