A R T F O R
A C H A N G E
1) - SIQUEIROS
MURAL DISCOVERY!... "Lost" Los Angeles mural located
- THE ART OF PHILIP STEIN - ESTAÑO... Website launch for mexicanmuralschool.com
- MARK VALLEN'S WEB LOG... Art theory, commentary and exhibit
reviews by artist, Mark Vallen © To be placed on this newsletter's
or to receive a text only version, send
Chouinard mural by Siqueiros.
An international protest action for art access
Meeting (or "Mitin Obrero"), was a two-story mural painted
by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Created on an outside
wall of the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles, it depicted
a militant union organizer addressing a multi-ethnic crowd on
a LA street corner.
was revolutionary in more ways than one. It was the first time
anyone had used an industrial spray gun to paint a mural
directly on cement (graffiti artists take note). Unveiled to a
throng of hundreds on July 7th, 1932, the pro-worker politics
of the artwork were enough to infuriate conservatives.
it was the artist's depiction of interracial unity that made the
mural truly ahead of its time, unacceptable to racists of the
day, and a target for destruction. By the time Chouinard had closed
its doors in 1972 the mural was all but forgotten. After the school
folded, the building passed from hand to hand and eventually became
a Korean Church. Now a startling new
discovery has been made. Due to the investigations
of several autonomous researchers the mural has been found intact
and a possible candidate for restoration. Chouinard has re-opened
in South Pasadena and is playing a key role in the hoped-for renovation.
Negotiations are underway to reacquire the old building and have
its famous artwork reconstructed. Professional conservators have
been brought in and they've found evidence of bright hues and
shapes under layers of obliterating whitewash. If brought back
to life the monumental work could serve as a major cultural landmark
for LA and the world.
of "Los Tres Grandes" (the triumvirate of eminent Mexican muralists
that also included Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco), Siqueiros
visited LA as a political refugee in 1932. During his six-month
stay here he painted three important murals -Worker's Meeting,
América Tropical and Portrait
of Mexico Today (painted at a private residence in Pacific
Palisades). These would be the only murals he would paint in the
US. The first two public artworks were marvels of innovation,
employing techniques that had never been utilized before, like
using camera-projections to transfer the artist's sketches to
the walls. Those first two murals were also destroyed by reactionaries
who could not tolerate dissenting opinions - but the fresco Portrait
of Mexico Today survived because it had been created on private
property (it is now part of the Santa Barbara Museum's permanent
colleague Luis Garza is a skilled photographer who documented
the Chicano movement of the late sixties, and in an extraordinary
suite of photos also captured Siqueiros in Mexico. Along with
his associates, Luis established the Legacy
& Legend Fund in an effort to help restore Siqueiros' ruined
América Tropical mural. I phoned Luis shortly after the
story of the Chouinard mural discovery was made public in the
LA Times on January 9, 2005.
with spray gun, working on
the Chouinard mural.
expressed guarded optimism about Worker's Meeting being
restored, and voiced the opinion that only mass community involvement
and support would guarantee success for the renovation projects.
(also known as Estaño), is another artist with a personal interest
in seeing the LA murals restored. He worked alongside Siqueiros
in Mexico for ten years, assisting the master in painting some
of his most famous works. I wrote my good friend Philip and asked
for his opinion regarding the Chouinard mural discovery:
an amazing discovery to find that the mural Worker's Meeting
or Street Meeting (Siqueiros referred to this mural often
using both titles), should show signs of some degree of preservation
under layers of whitewash. Siqueiros himself was not conscious
of the fact that the obliteration of the mural (as ordered by
the LA Police) was done with coats of whitewash rather than total
removal as he always believed. Now 73 years after it was first
painted and presumed gone forever, and 31 years after Siqueiros'
death, this remarkable and historically important work holds forth
promise that it may one day reappear in its full aesthetic, technical
and political glory as Siqueiros had meant it to be seen."
The works of Siqueiros have had a profound impact on me over the
years, and to some extent I credit him for making me the artist
I am today. I was only a boy when I picked up an art book and
saw his evocative, Echo
of a Scream, a nightmarish portrait of a weeping child
sitting in the rubble of a war-shattered landscape. Being born
and raised in Los Angeles I've spent much time on the city's founding
avenue of Olvera Street, where Siqueiros painted América Tropical.
At fifteen I learned that the city had whitewashed that mural
in 1932 because of its political content - which for me served
as an early lesson on the power of art. My hometown of LA will
forever be linked to Siqueiros, whose works eventually helped
inspire the Chicano Arts Movement of the late sixties. Today the
art of Siqueiros is reaching out to us from an earlier time, and
if we pay close attention we won't find ancient relics from an
irrelevant past, but a militantly humanistic aesthetic that can
be applied to the present.
ART OF PHILIP STEIN - ESTAÑO
Website launch for
A new website
reveals the history of the Mexican Muralist Movement and one American
artist's personal connection to it. Philip
Stein, also known as Estaño,
worked alongside the famed Mexican Muralist David
Alfaro Siqueiros from 1948 to 1958. He assisted the Mexican
master in painting some of his most famous murals. Now a brand
new website showcases the stirring artworks created during Estaño's
Stein (Estaño) is a master artist in his own right. Indelibly
influenced by Mexican muralism in both style and content, Estaño
has continued to create artworks based on contemporary realities.
His paintings are collected and exhibited around the world, and
now mexicanmuralschool.com will serve
as the premiere online gallery for his work, as well as an international
educational resource for students and art lovers. An unrepentant
radical living in reactionary times, Estaño reminds us all that
the Muralists were actually political militants who held uncompromising
opinions on art and everything else. He delivers his view of history
as only an active participant can. Mark
Vallen began corresponding with Philip Stein in August
of 2003. Based on their mutual involvement with socially conscious
art, they agreed to collaborate on creating a website that would
pay tribute to the school of Mexican muralism as well as present
the art of Estaño to the world.
keeping with the theme of progressive humanistic causes and the
march towards justice, the official launch date for mexicanmuralschool.com
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday
January 17, 2005.
VALLEN'S WEB LOG
Art theory, commentary and exhibit reviews
Mark Vallen continues to write articles on his web log that cover
stories other art news websites and blogs ignore. His most recent
posts have included announcements about KLARTEXT (the international
political art conference now taking place in Berlin), and the
"Louvre For All" movement in Paris that demands the
famous museum be free to all.
of Lithograph by Mark Vallen
"It is the job of
the artist... to think outside the boundaries of permissible
thought and dare to say things that no one else will say"
~ Howard Zinn