Sabrina Roussel

April 27, 2015

Preserving Art Through Technology: Things We Have Lost

Part of the excitement I find with public art  is the temporality. A piece can be thrown up on a wall overnight and taken down by tomorrow. Anyone can tag a wall, paint over it, or hell – even passively complain about it. The city of Los Angeles has shown a variation of these emotions toward public art in the past few decades. It has embraced it and shunned it, and now it perhaps just tolerates it. “‘I am grieved by the condition of existing murals, no public policy to support them, and a coming generation which has begun to deface what we have because they have no context to understand the heritage behind them or a way to channel their own talent to produce their own,’ says Judy Baca, a professor of cultural studies and public and ethnic art at the University of California, Los Angeles.” (Wood).

“In 1976, Baca formed the Social Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) to produce and protect public art and conduct educational programs about the potential of decorated walls to address the realities of inner-city living. For years, SPARC – with the help of city funding – kept Los Angeles at the cutting edge with dozens of projects in every region of the city. But funding for SPARC and municipal support for mural painting slowed to a trickle and was eventually cut off for good in 2003.” (Wood). Judy Baca, furthermore, fears that limited funding and restricted approvals for certain artists and locales is a type of censorship that inhibits murals from existing in the city that practically invented it.

Most of my focus this semester has been on muralism in Los Angeles, and almost always, I find a way to return to Judy Baca’s Great Wall of LA. It is a half-mile long visual story and analysis of the birth, growth and decay of true LA history. The project and feat itself is inspiring, but I look to it so often to learn more about a forgotten or lost LA. “The beginnings of muralism in Los Angeles are rooted in the need for public space and public expression. In a city where neighborhoods were uprooted through corporatization (as with the Chavez Ravine sports stadium) or the construction of freeways through low-income barrios or ghettos, or the destruction of rivers, the need to create sites of public memory became increasingly important.” (Baca).

I already discussed the arrival of Siqueiros to Los Angeles in the 1930s and the impact he had on art and the community in his short period of time here, but I left it hanging on the status of his first American mural, Street Meeting. Ten years after its discovery beneath decades of paint, Street Meeting has yet to see the light of day. Especially from street level, it is invisible to the human eye. If you did not know it was there, you would never know where to find it. Even on your tiptoes and squinting your eyes. Take out your smart phone, however, and open the Layer app while standing on Grand View Street near MacArthur Park outside of the former Chouinard Arts Institute. The building is a now a church adjacent to a school, so beware of wary neighborhood dwellers. I definitely caught the attention of a few locals. But it didn’t matter because I was excited to share with people what I was witnessing. Street Meeting had been returned to its original location.

This semester we have been working on Things We Have Lost, an augmented-reality public art project. Imagine losing your keys and an image of a key appears, or imagine “losing your innocence” and a doll or a red wagon appears. Remember your lost brother, and a full 3D avatar of a young man appears. Things We Have Lost aims to tackle the almost 4 million residents of Los Angeles and objects – both tangible and emotional – that they may have lost. The project floats between playful and though-provoking, but what attracted me to it originally was its possibilities. As a public art enthusiast, what could this mean for the works that have such short life spans, works that are sometimes never able to reach their full potential or full audience. I look to this project as a database, or a collection of memories that are once again accessible. Preservation and discovery are the two most important elements to Things We Have Lost. What makes this project different from any other technological database of lost art, is that it returns objects and meanings to its rightful owner or location. It bridges the gap between the most expansive public realm – the digital world, the internet – and the world in which we live and breathe.

Wood, Daniel B. “Los Angeles Grapples with Saving its Murals.” The Christian Science Monitor: 01. Sep 19 2005. ProQuest.Web. 25 Mar. 2015.


April 21, 2015

History of Muralism, pt 1: Siqueiros

Before we learned how to write, we learned how to communicate through movement and images. Imprinting our stories on rocks and walls with paintings and carvings made histories more permanent and lasting. It allowed cultures to grow and traditions to be passed down. From pictographs and petroglyphs, we have learned about survival – everything from hunting practices to religious birth rituals. In this way, murals have given us life. But when we have the internet and social media, what is there left to say with paint and an abandoned wall?

One of the most important muralists to Los Angeles is David Alfaro Siqueiros – painter, founder of the Mexican Mural Movement, and one of Los Tres Grandes or the Three Great Ones alongside Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. He’s the real deal when it comes to cultural and politically charged murals in Los Angeles, murals with true lost history. “His radical approach to art and his creation of new mural techniques made him one of the most influential figures on younger generations of international mural artists” (MoMA). Some artists painted to paint, never intending their works to be shared in a private museum collection. “Easel painting,” as he called it in the El Machete union manifesto in 1929, was reserved for the egotistical and elite (MoMA). For Siqueiros, it was important to him to reach a larger and more public audience. As a devoted and outspoken Communisit, it is no surprise that Siqueiros was eventually exiled in 1932 for his political affiliations and rebellious activities in Mexico. We are just lucky that he found his way to Los Angeles, even if it was only for a brief time. In fact it was the former Chouinard Art Institute who invited Siqueiros to teach fresco painting. “Los Angeles, after all, included Hollywood, a creative world of Leftist intellectuals and emigres” (Art Ltd). It was the perfect environment for an artist looking for an audience. Siqueiros’ time with the Chouinard Art Institute eventually led to his first mural in America – Street Meeting. Siqueiros and his team known as the “Mural Bloc” completed Street Meeting in just about two weeks, on the exterior wall of the school. Despite being invited to teach fresco painting, Siqueiros also implemented a new technique of using a spray gun to create the scene of a union leader speaking to a group of people directly on the cement wall. With his radical content and experimental techniques, Siqueiros immediately drew the attention of his new American audience in a much different way than other Mexican Muralists. “His most important contribution to wall painting was to make direct use of the mural’s public nature to emphasize its social function.  Whereas Rivera used architecture as a frame and Orozco treated it as a foil, Siqueiros employed it as the fulcrum of both style and message” (MoMA). After all, this was 1932, and Street Meeting’s central figure was wearing a distinctly red shirt and addressing an equally distinctive multiracial community. “It was thought to be destroyed due to its political themes, or worse, the idea of a multi-ethnic workers, by the LAPD Red Squad, the city’s crusaders against Labor Unions, and later Communism, lead by Captain Bill “Red” Hynes” (KCET). As quickly as the paint dried, so was the mural covered up. It was too provocative for its time. Street Meeting became both a message of lost history and a physical lost piece of artwork for over seven decades.

Taken by Craig Freeman, January 2015

In 2005, Nobuyuki Hadeishi, a former Chouinard student and current member of the board of directors, saw new photographs of the mural and suddenly recognized the location of the mural based on the three windows the mural once surrounded. The former Chouinard Art Institute building is now the New Times Presbyterian Church, and the mural’s wall is now half covered by a new first floor roof. It is still not known whether or not Street Meeting will ever be fully uncovered and restored, at least not in its original state. Although pastor Moses Cho of the New Times hopes for the mural to be restored saying, “Art belongs to the community,” it will take a lot more than just hoping (LA Times). Before decades of paint can be chipped away, research and planning must be conducted before a budget is even made and fundraising can begin.


April 15, 2015

Lost Object: Completed

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Tracking Image: Big Sur, CA – December 2014

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The St. Christopher pendant should appear when using the Daqri phone app. For some reason the texturing is off, but after a month of trying to get a Daqri account and then countless failed 4D Studio attempts, I am pretty proud to finally have a Lost Object to share.


April 14, 2015

Introduction

How do you tell a story that doesn’t want to be heard? I have spent a lot of time this semester thinking about the theme of lost history and how it has been documented in Los Angeles. I’m new to this city, and my fear of being a total tourist has forced me to explore places and times important to my new home. From the beaches of Venice where I write this introduction to Downtown Los Angeles where I conducted most of my research, this place offers a different kind of history from the one we learned about in middle school textbooks. Yes, this is America but it is not entirely American history.

In fact, I find the phrase “lost history” very fascinating. It is poetic, and from my research, I have found that it evokes a certain kind of nostalgia, one that longs for an understanding of the past. It makes me question what has happened or what has changed and why, and I wonder what the future holds for these communities. If there is a lost history, maybe we can create a found future. I will explain later how some really beat up communities considered just that and used a paintbrush to literally put control of their future back in their hands. In her essay “The Art of the Mural,” Judith Baca says, “If you had the paint and the time, the wall and the message were yours.” Baca is a professor at UCLA’s Cesar Chavez Center of Interdisciplinary Studies of Chicano/a Studies and World Arts and Cultures Department as well as the co-founder of the Social and Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC). I will be referencing her work a lot as she is pretty much the authority on muralism and Mexican history in Los Angeles. Baca says, “Perhaps it was the abundance of concrete, or the year-round painting season, or the city full of Mexican workers that made Los Angeles the place where murals began to be a predominant art form.” This essay will walk you through a brief history of muralism in Los Angeles, including the early works of Orozco and Siquieros all the way to modern street art and gang graffiti. It will also discuss ways to view these artworks and how we have worked to conserve these histories in the digital age.

Images from today in Venice:

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April 8, 2015

Final Project/Paper Outline

  1. Introduction – I have spent a lot of time this semester thinking about lost history and how it is documented in Los Angeles, most notably through muralism.
    1. A brief history of mural art in Los Angeles, including Mexican Muralism and modern street art and graffiti.
    2. The importance of muralism and how it has impacted new, old, growing or forgotten cultures and communities in Los Angeles.
    3. The struggles muralism has faced to exist, including funding and security.
    4. Defining muralism as an expressive art form and tool for politics and education.
  2. Methods of viewing and conserving street art and murals in Los Angeles.
    1. Description of measures taken to document new, existing or even lost murals in Los Angeles.
      1. Databases and education centers – Google Street Art, MCLA, SPARC, Mechicano Art Center, Digital Mural Lab @ UCLA
    2. AR – “Things We Have Lost”: Review
      1. Experience viewing Siquieros murals.

Ultimately I would like my paper to connect the history of mural painting and political activism to public art and the work we have been doing in class.

Preliminary Bibliography

Baca, Judith. “The Art of the Mural.” Web log post. American Family. PBS, 2004. Web. 25 Mar. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/americanfamily/mural.html>.

Estrada, William D. “Los Angeles’ Old Plaza and Olvera Street: Imagined and Contested Space.” Western Folklore Spring 1999: 107-29. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2015 .

Johnson, Reed. “ART ON THE STREET; Murals in a New Light; L.A.’s Ban is Getting another Look Amid Shifting Public Opinion.” Los Angeles Times. Jul 07 2013. ProQuest. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Noriega, Chon A., Terecita Romo, and Pilar Tompkins Rivas. L.A. Xicano. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 2011. Print.

Wood, Daniel B. “Los Angeles Grapples with Saving its Murals.” The Christian Science Monitor: 01. Sep 19 2005. ProQuest.Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Additional Research


March 31, 2015

Google Art Project: Street Art

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I found this interactive map and gallery of street art from all around the world. (Thank you, Google Gods.) It features stories from artists, “guided tours,” and links to useful information on the growing history of modern street art and murals. There is even a section on “Street Art Made For The Web,” images of real walls and real art that have been animated and are only viewable digitally. This is a wonderful tool for documenting public art, especially the delicate and sometimes temporary walls of Los Angeles.

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Honorable Mention: Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA)

“MCLA maintains a FREE database of Los Angeles’ Mural History linking artists, murals and neighborhoods. The foundation of this database was shaped by Robin Dunitz’ book “Street Gallery”, the first true compilation of Los Angeles public murals. The MCLA website allows submissions of murals created recently in Los Angeles, forming an ever growing archive joining the historic with the new.”

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March 25, 2015

As my final project submission approaches, I’d like to focus my work on murals in Los Angeles, specifically the Great Wall of Los Angeles and the Siqueiros murals near MacArthur Park and on Olvera Street. In my final paper, I am hoping to discuss the importance of these murals to the history of art and Los Angeles. I will be connecting the history of mural painting and political activism to public art and the work we are doing in LA as well. That is, I will research how our AR technology has helped us view, uncover and preserve murals. I will also look into ways to create new murals onto new or old surfaces and extending existing murals such as the Great Wall of LA.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Great Wall of of LA covers the history of Los Angeles and its minority communities until the 1960s. I would like to continue the work Judy Baca has already done, but digitally. Here is an early mockup of what I would include in a mural for LA in the late 1960s to 1970s:

LA 1965-1970s

Watts Riots – 1965

LA freeway system – 1960s

Election of Tom Bradley as mayor – 1973

LA Lakers – 1970s


March 18, 2015

Lost Object: Progress

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Still waiting on my Daqri 4D account, but here is my Lost Object after getting cleaned up in Maya. The .obj and .fbx files are ready and waiting!


March 11, 2015

Lost Object: Choosing an object and capturing it with 123d Catch

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I recently lost my mother’s Saint Christopher pendant which I kept in my car for safe travels. I’m not very religious, but because I am so far away from home, it was always a small reminder that I could always find my way. It was a small item that I rarely talked about and often forgot about, but in my mind, it kept me safe. What would happen with it being removed from my car? When it was stolen, I immediately ordered a new one so that I may continue to explore new places with a peaceful mind.

This new pendant is now mine. Sure it began as a physical and literal “Lost Object,” but I have been able to give new meaning to it though this assignment. I hope to add it to more photos from my travels in the future.


March 2, 2015

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On Saturday, Jesse and I visited The Great Wall of Los Angeles and took some pictures of our own. The wall spans from Prehistoric California to the 1950s. For my final project, I am thinking about a way to continue the wall from the 1960s to now.

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February 18, 2015

I went out this morning to investigate some of the avatars that have already been placed at MacArthur Park and Olvera Street.

Pictured below are screenshots of the “Lost Students of Guerrero” objects.

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February 15, 2015

Images of Villa Carlotta as taken by Craig.

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Recommended reading:

“Ciao, Villa: Saying Goodbye to Hollywood’s Hottest, Seediest Address” (Stinson Carter, Vanity Fair)

“Historic Villa Carlotta is sold” (Roger Vincent, LA Times)


February 10, 2015

Goals for this semester:

1. Explore “Lost History” at The Great Wall of Los Angeles and Villa Carlotta.

2. Visit existing avatars placed at Siqueiros’ murals and document first-hand experiences and screenshots.


February 4th, 2015

Self-Portrait Avatar Model

Before

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After

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