Coming up Monday, Caltrans will unveil a novel approach to preserving freeway murals defaced by graffiti vandals.
You may remember the murals that once frosted the walls along the 101 in downtown L.A. Several — including “Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo” by John Wehrle and “Going to the Olympics” by Frank Romero — were painted in honor of the 1984 Olympics. They remained undisturbed for years but little by little, graffiti pretty much ruined them. With maintenance funding depleted there was little that could be done.
But today and tomorrow Caltrans — supported financially by Wells Fargo with a little help from Metro — will begin installing mesh fabric replicas of four murals on the 101 walls between Spring Street and Broadway. The mural replicas can be removed for cleaning, should something ugly happen in the dead of night. (What are the chances?) An extra copy of each of the murals will be made so that a new mural can be put up quickly and traffic is not disrupted. The fabric is made of recycled material. Wells Fargo funds will pay for maintenance of the murals by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.
Maybe it’s just me, but as a visitor to L.A. from Chicago way back when, the murals struck me as L.A. at its best — enveloping the car culture with art and beauty. Among the beautiful and interesting are the four that will be unveiled Monday at 10 a.m.: the previously mentioned “Going to the Olympics” and “Galileo, Jupiter and Apollo” and also George Sportelli’s “Tony Curtis,” which used to hang near the Sunset Boulevard ramp in Hollywood, and Ruben Soto’s haunting “I know Who I Am.”
So hooray for art! Hooray for Caltrans, Wells Fargo and Metro! And Hooray for recycled mesh material! May it help keep art, these murals and possibly other murals alive.