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Transforming the Purpose of Murals: New Brand of Murals Private-Public Space Interventions

Black news - history and purpose of muralsMurals have been part of world history for centuries from the pyramids of Egypt to the ones in Mexico, in the halls of the Louvre, and in the colonial buildings of Latin America. Murals are not a recent phenomena. During the 1920's to the 1950's in Mexico there was a very powerful movement of murals inspired by Jose Vasconcelos, a minister of education in Mexico. He invited painters such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and Alfaro Siqueiros, among others, to create a series of murals on important government buildings in Mexico City to follow a movement that Vasconcelos initiated often referred to as "Indigenismo." These three world-renowned artists were commissioned to create murals depicting the rescue of the Aboriginal past.

During this thirty-year period Socialist ideology was very popular in Mexico. These artists were involved in the Socialist movement and the work they produced reflected this political reality. Their work not only became a celebration of Mexico's indigenous past, but at the same time, a vehicle to enroll people in their political and Socialists beliefs. This was a clear transformation in the way of making murals that became world famous. Artists Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco were invited to create murals throughout the United States, for example, at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the Pomona School of Architecture in Pomona, California and Olvera Street in Los Angeles. The Mexican population in the United States adopted these artists because they were able to connect with them and their past which gave them a sense of pride and a reason to be rebellious. During the 1950's and 1960's the influence of the Mexican muralists provoked an art movement to justify and support, in an artistic way, the civil rights of Mexican-Americans which ushered in the Chicano movement. The Chicano movement was a consequence, and sometimes parallel, to the Civil Rights struggle of African-Americans. The art of murals with a set of images, inspired by Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, the (skull) calaca-images of Posada, the Virgin de Guadalupe and other art depictions was one important factor that allowed Chicanos to find a visual common denominator to identify themselves with the Civil Rights movement.

In recent times, for some people, murals have a negative connotation, because in general, they are depicted as a way of protesting and exposing social injustice and a range of other social ills. These images are often repeated and copied in a context that some people find difficult to relate to. Personally, I am tired of seeing these same images of leaders that for different reasons people admire, but, they are often depicted in the wrong context. It is my belief that using guerilla art, social discontent, and mistrust in the system in murals is passé. I am not opposed to these manifestations because they have value in the context in which they were created. The influence of graffiti on these manifestations has been a large factor in the demise of this art form. Graffiti and traditional muralism in Los Angeles has value related to the time and social circumstances in which they evolved and some of them in Los Angeles are true popular art.

I celebrate both when these murals are created utilizing good taste and is respectful of its surroundings. I believe it is time, and it is already happening, where this art medium is being transformed by placing emphasis on the importance of beauty in relationship with the architecture and community space. I would like to see new murals absent social context focused on pure beauty with the consensus of the community. In this way the art enhances the community, creates a sense of pride and improves the lives of residents. For example, the way a garden enhances the view of a house or public space.

As an artist, I pursue beauty because, indirectly, a beautiful mural impacts the community without any implicit message or political agenda. My job is to pursue the transformation of the purpose of murals into private-public space interventions by creating a new brand of murals based on beauty, respect for the surrounding architecture, and art in context with the style of the space that will host it and with the participation of the community.

I am glad to have had an opportunity to share this idea in the mural "Cool Succulents" in Pasadena. For more information visit www.luisituarte.com or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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