The Return of Los Angeles’ Murals

1984_HerrónThe traffic on the 101 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles is so heavy (a large amount), that it’s difficult and dangerous to look around while you drive. But if you had been driving on the 101 recently, you might have seen artist Willie Herron up on a metal platform (something to stand on) pointing a high-pressure stream (continuous flow) of hot water at a gray-colored concrete freeway wall.

And if you had stopped to watch, you would have seen the gray paint on the freeway wall slowly disappear. In place of the paint, you would have seen Herron’s mural (a painting on a wall) Luchas del Mundo (Struggles of the World) slowly re-emerge (appear again) – by the way, that’s the mural in the photo.

Los Angeles is home to more than 1,500 murals. Each one tells you something about the history, experiences, values, and dreams of the people who live nearby. Mural-painting was probably introduced to the U.S. by artists of the Mexican Revolution, like Diego Rivera. In Los Angeles, the first mural was painted by Mexican artist David Siqueiros in 1932.

As part of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, ten murals were painted along LA’s freeways, where they would be seen by people driving to and from the Olympic venues (places where an activities takes place). The murals are as different as the artists who painted them. John Wehrle created an outer-space fantasy. Glenna Avila’s Freeway Kids shows a group of happy children running and jumping at the side of the freeway. Herron’s mural includes Olympic symbols (pictures or shapes with particular meaning), competing (participating in a sport) wrestlers, and a helicopter hovering (staying in one place up in the air) over La Placita, a historic Los Angeles church.

Murals are difficult to maintain (take care of; protect), especially along busy freeways. As a result, the Olympic murals slowly deteriorated (became worse) and some were painted over. To make things worse, the city of Los Angeles passed a ban (an official order that prevents something from being done) on public murals. So, for a number of years, nothing was done to protect most of LA’s murals.

In 2013, however, the public mural ban was lifted (removed) and the Los Angeles Mural Conservancy (a organization to protect murals) began to try to restore (return something to its original condition) many Los Angeles murals, beginning with the Olympic murals. Herron’s Luchas del Mundo is the last of the Olympic murals to be restored. “It’s been a long time coming (it’s taken a long time for this to happen),” he told the Los Angeles Times recently. “I don’t know how I’ll feel when it’s all uncovered, but it’s emotional.”

If you’d like to see a few of Los Angeles’ murals and watch as some re-emerge after being hidden under coats (covering or layers) of paint for many years, watch this short video. If you have time, you can explore all of LA’s murals in this database from the Public Art in Los Angeles web site.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo of Luchas del Mundo from the Los Angeles Mural Conservancy.

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13 Responses to The Return of Los Angeles’ Murals

  1. peter says:

    Interesting !!!
    All these mural talks u hear here and there fascinate me. It always brings to mind one question -that is-what is the difference between them and graffitis
    I have seen some of theses famous murals in my trip two Europe two years ago. Well ,I must say ,I never noticed them in LA partially due the size of the city. It is quite a sizeable city. When u go down there just for a few days all u can do is to literally whirlwind the major tourist attraction there.
    Well , in my mind , painting murals is not an easy task to do. It takes energy and perseverance. The painter brave the elements for days and sometimes months to finish up one piece ,well in case of them ,one wall.
    I think , Mular painting is a fairly new form of art though. It must be around for one or two decades. I don’t know when and where the whole idea originated.
    All I know is some of them are really eye-pleaser!!!
    And some of them are worth millions!!
    In a sense, they decorate the city. It gives the city a new look , u might say.
    I have always been wondering if it is a self-thought art or there are some sort of art classes for it.
    I guess it is safe to assume that classes usually are held outdoors by walls all around the city 🙂
    I bet sometimes the head master use loudspeakers to address his or class particularly when said class is being held by Highway 101, LA:))))

    By now
    Pete from a mural less city-that is-Toronto ,ON

  2. Dan says:

    Hi Everyone.

    My favorite are: L.A. Freeway kids and Galileo Jupiter Apollo.
    There are others beautiful and a few I find horrible like Commemoration of Hiroshima day.

    I had a taste of L.A.’s murals playing the latest episode of GTA that take place over there, and some places are just like the originals, but I had not idea there were so many.
    I do not usually like ugly graffiti made out by thugs, but those shown in the video are really good. I like those.

    Thank you guys, with all these posts on LA we are getting to know the city well.


  3. Dan says:

    Hey Pete.

    I do not want to say something stupid, but murals are probably one of the first form of our attempts at making art, leaving a trace of our presence perhaps just for fun.
    It comes to mind those famous hands painted spitting paint on the hands like a airbrush tool for painting.

    Thanks, always a pleasure reading from you.

  4. Warren Ediger says:

    About early “murals” – you’re right, Dan, in thinking that they may be one of the first forms of painting. For many years the Lascaux cave paintings (France) were thought to be the earliest (around 17,000 years old) however, in 1994 the similar Chauvet cave paintings (also France) were found. Researchers think they may be 40,000 years old. Check them out at Wikipedia; the quality is unbelievable!

  5. Dan says:

    Good Morning guys.

    You are right Warren those cave paintings’ quality is unbelievable. I would not be able to reproduce those since my drawing skills/bar is close to zero.
    Looking at a video of those caves I got emotional. Thinking that the drawing were made 30/40,000 years ago, which however, in geological time is nothing.
    Just the other day reading about this human species -Australophitecus afarensis- that lived around 4 to 3 million years ago, those people survived for 900,000 years!

    Sorry, but I have to say this: just looking at that cave in France, I cannot understand how in 2015 there are still around so many deniers of Evolution.
    And to my surprise, sadly, many of those in the US! That is one of the biggest things that let me disappointed about you guys over there when I found that out.

    Thank you

  6. peter says:

    Thank Warren and Dan plenty as u are kind enough to answer my question.
    It brings me to my second question: how they do they differ from graffitis. I mean what is the difference there ?


  7. Dan says:

    Hey guys.

    I am late because of the shift I am working at.

    Hey Pete, I am not an expert on the subject, but when I think graffiti, I see just words with maybe some icons or small drawings.
    When I think murals I see more elaborate piece of art, usually covering the whole wall of a building.

    Have you guys seen those drawings that looks like their are in three D.
    I am not sure how that technique is called. It’s like optical illusions using perspective and depth.
    They are awesome!
    I saw one recently that was made for making people slowing down with their vehicle.
    At a distance you see a girl on the middle of the street and only when you get closer it’s clear that it’s just been drawn on the asphalt.


  8. Dan says:

    Morning everyone, even if you are reading this at night.

    I was thinking that besides all the descriptions of L.A. we are given here by our friends/teachers, looking at the murals adds something more and different
    that perhaps words cannot express.

    I had in mind all the “Madonnas” or “virgin Mary” I saw going through the database. My understanding is that that is something brought by south Americans Catholics.
    First it’s interesting to see how this people depict/draw the Madonna and many of those are very similar if not replicas, very identical.

    I also saw one about the famous physicist Richard Faynman and others about science in general. I was happy to see those.
    I am not sure, but Faynman was the one that said that thing about rainbow.
    It was something on the line: if you know more about rainbows, how, when and how they form you end up appreciating it even more.
    That was just an example on the power of knowledge and science I believe. At looking how things works, looking for answers.

    I was also thinking that places like southern CA are ideal for murals.
    But, again I am not an expert. I am not aware if the salt of the ocean reaches downtown LA. That could be bad for outside painting. I don’t know, just guessing here.

    Well, see you guys. Always a pleasure.

  9. Dan says:

    Morning everyone.

    I just heard Pod. 1085 having good and bad luck.
    Today’s Friday the thirteenth and as for good luck I am going to touch all six feet of my three cats 😉


  10. Dan says:

    I meant twelve feet, sorry. that’s makes double the luck, I am covered all year around.

  11. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hello, people of ESLPOD. Murals are interesting, but, as always, they represent such a visual pollution. The best colors to be seen in nature are green and blue, because these colors make good to your eyes, according to specialists. And I agre with them. To be sure about this, just look at a forest and at the sky. Which colors do you see? Are they pleasant? Do you feel happy and healthy looking at them?

  12. peter says:

    Hi Dan,
    Well-Put man
    I like that we interact and exchange ideas here.
    I see ur point man. But , the things is murals are drawing too. The way I see it ,and correct me if I m wrong, is that Graffitis usually serve different purpose. They are typically used for some sorts of political gains or protest of some sorts . U see what I mean , in my mind , griffitis and murals are both Some sort of arts. That much is true!!
    However ,in my book , graffitis emphesize more of the message they carry whereas murals are put more weight in the art aspect of it.

    Don’t get me wrong , I totally agree with you but i think ,there is more to it. Still ,it is just me.i might be totally off base here.

    Thanks for the reply bro
    It was nice chewing fat with u.

    Pete, a chum from Toronto

  13. Dan says:

    Hey Pete.
    That’s true.
    I would add that it might be that, Murals are often created by artists while graffiti are often made out by morons.

    When I say that I am thinking at all the walls, wagon trains or pieces of art stained by would be artists/slackers/knuckle heads.

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