Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Long View of Santa Monica's Ocean Park Boulevard Murals

 
Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Whale of a Mural by Daniel Alonzo (1983). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Whale of a Mural by Daniel Alonzo (1983). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

The Long View of Santa Monica's Ocean Park Boulevard Murals
by Samuel D. Gruber

When art historians and critics think of Santa Monica's Ocean Park, mostly likely it will be painter Richard Diebenkorn's (1922-1993) Ocean Park Series of brightly colored abstract paintings that will come to mind.   There is another form of Ocean Park art, too: murals.  

Two of the oldest, best-known and longest (in size) in the Santa Monica neighborhood cover the lengthy concrete support and retaining walls that line the sides of the Ocean Park Boulevard underpass from 2nd Street to 4th Street, running perpendicular from the beach and Main Street. When I visit Santa Monica, I pass these murals a lot - on foot and on bike.  If there were not murals, these concrete walls would be boring, even oppressive.  Instead, what could be a tunnel is instead a outdoor gallery.  

These murals are now thirty years old, making them almost ancient in the world of urban murals.  Their location along a road cut and underpass have protected the somewhat form the weather, but they are showing their age. For those that do not know them, here is a quick view.  for those that do know them, of for whom they have blended into the familiar cityscape, here is a re-introduction.

In the spring of 1982 Daniel Alonzo began his most recognized work, "Whale of a Mural", located on 4th Street and Ocean Park Blvd in Santa Monica. In this mural we are submerged not just below the overpass, but into the water.  The experience recalls being in an aquarium, but instead of small fish we see families of behemoth whales.

 
Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Whale of a Mural by Daniel Alonzo (1983). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Whale of a Mural by Daniel Alonzo (1983). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

 Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Whale of a Mural by Daniel Alonzo (1983). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

 
Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Whale of a Mural by Daniel Alonzo (1983). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

In 1985, 0n the opposite side of Ocean Park Boulevard, David S. Gordon painted Unbridled, a long view of escaping  Santa Monica Pier carousel horses frolicking on the beach.  This theme links the mural to local history and landscape, and provides a mix of theses - the nature of sea, beach and local cliffs, with a whiff of whimsy.  Again, the softness and variety of the natural world is used to dress the unnatural hardness and monotony of the long concrete retaining wall.  On the side, the walker, biker, driver gets to race the horses - though most are running against traffic!

Both artists of these 1980s murals painted continuous and unified works that reveal themselves sequentially as one passes them by.  They can be viewed lengthwise from any point, and any direction for the sweep of the image, or each segment can be viewed head on.  Each scene is part of the whole, but is also perfectly self-sustaining. 

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

 Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

 
Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Santa Monica, CA. Ocean Park Boulevard. Unbridled by David S. Gordon (1985). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

There are scores of murals throughout the Los Angeles area.  The quality ranges widely, but even the bad ones when stumbled upon offer some relief to the hardscape of the city, and sometimes the provide real pleasure.  They are best found by accident, but you can locate many of the murals through this website of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. 

Have you looked for all the murals in your community?

For more on public murals see my posts about Syracuse's Westcott Neighborhood, and the murals of Seattle's Wallingford Neighborhood.



No comments:

Post a Comment