Category: America Tropical

Unveiling América Tropical, Oct 9, 2012

Banner featuring the central motif of the América Tropical mural, posted by the City of Los Angeles on Main Street adjacent to Olvera Street. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Banner featuring the central motif of the América Tropical mural, posted by the City of Los Angeles on Main Street adjacent to Olvera Street. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

A specter is haunting the City of Los Angeles - the specter of social realism in art. That spirit stalks Olvera Street, the city’s oldest boulevard; the ghostly apparition is not a lost soul from one of the original inhabitants of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles (The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels), the name given to the small town founded in 1781 by Spanish colonists of mixed European, Native American, and African descent.

Neither is it an apparition of someone from the ancient Gabrielino-Tongva tribe, the first people to inhabit the land that eventually became L.A., though the spirit of indigenous people has much to do with this tale of a phantom returning to the world of the living. No, the phantasm I write of is América Tropical, the Olvera Street mural painted by Mexican Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1932. The wall painting’s revolutionary narrative so terrified city officials at the time that they had it whitewashed; the censored mural remained covered up for eighty years.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, América Tropical was unveiled in a public ceremony that I was thrilled to attend. To announce the mural’s unveiling and the simultaneous opening of the América Tropical Interpretive Center (ATIC), the Getty Conservation Institute and the City of Los Angeles held a press conference on Olvera Street at the Casa Avila Adobe, which was built in 1818 during the Spanish colonial period and today is the oldest standing building in L.A. October 9 was the fulfillment of a decades long effort to have the mural restored and presented to the public. As an artist deeply influenced by Siqueiros and his fellow Mexican Muralists, and as a member of the Board of Directors of Amigos de Siqueiros, the unveiling was a joyous occasion for me, as I have been writing about Siqueiros and his Olvera Street mural on this web log since 2005. But Oct. 9 was also a collective triumph for the hundreds of people who worked so diligently to make the dream come true.

Before inviting those gathered at the press conference to visit the rooftop mural located atop the América Tropical Interpretive Center, the Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, Timothy P. Whalen; the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, James Cuno; Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, all made poignant statements before the press about the importance of América Tropical to the people of L.A. and the world. The official 2012 unveiling of the Siqueiros mural and the opening of the interpretive center took place eighty years from the mural’s original unveiling on October 11, 1932.

The Mayor’s office and the Getty presented a commemorative plaque to Amigos de Siqueiros, for the group’s role in helping to preserve and promote América Tropical and the legacy of David Alfaro Siqueiros. The inscribed tablet was received by the Chair of Amigos de Siqueiros, Dalila Teresa Sotelo, and Carol Jacques, a commissioner for El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and a chief liaison for Amigos de Siqueiros.

The whitewash has at last been removed from América Tropical, but it covered more than a mural painted by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century - it concealed the unvarnished truth about Los Angeles and all of the Americas. The unveiling should mark the beginning of serious dialog over the issues evident in the painting, but I hope the work also inspires a new socially engaged art for our time. That would be the real legacy of David Alfaro Siqueiros, and with the world presently in the state it is in, we should call for nothing less.

I took the following photos during the October 9, 2012, América Tropical unveiling ceremony.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©From Main Street one can partially view the América Tropical mural located on the rooftop of the historic Italian Hall. The large wing-like construction is the super-structure that protects the mural from the elements. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©View of the mural as seen from the vender’s area of Olvera Street. To some extent one can catch a glimpse of the painting from street level, but what stands out the most is the super-structure that protects the mural from weather conditions. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©From left to right: the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, James Cuno; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and L.A. City Councilman José Huizar, announcing the unveiling of  América Tropical at the Casa Avila Adobe October 9, 2012 press conference. Photo by Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, Timothy P. Whalen (shown at right) and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Avila Adobe press conference. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©The Olvera Street entrance to the América Tropical Interpretive Center (ATIC). The box-like structure on the center’s roof is actually the observation platform where the public can view the Siqueiros mural. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©View of one of two large exhibit rooms in the América Tropical Interpretive Center. The rooms present interactive displays, photos, informative text and other ephemera related to Siqueiros and the América Tropical mural. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©This is the view of América Tropical afforded by the observation platform atop the Interpretive Center. The mural was painted on a rooftop wall of the Italian Hall building. This photo also shows the super-structure that protects the mural. The panels on the side move to block the sun, likewise the wing-like structure above the mural can also be lowered to provide sun-shade. The domed building in the background is the Los Angeles Terminal Annex U.S. Post Office, which was built in 1939 - seven years after Siqueiros created his mural. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©This photo shows a reclining Chacmool sculptural figure Siqueiros used to represent pre-Columbian civilizations. Chacmool were common to the Toltec, Maya, and Aztec, and were utilized in religious ceremonies involving offerings and sacrifices; usually gifts to the Gods were placed on the stomach of a Chacmool figure. Pre-Columbian ruins are strewn throughout the mural, symbolizing the destruction of indigenous people by colonialism.

In the above photo, along the bottom edge of the mural, one can see how the original painting suffered deterioration over the years, which presented a major challenge to Getty restorers. The staff of the Getty Conservation Institute did a world class job of preserving América Tropical, and you can read about their conservation efforts here. This photo was shot from the viewing platform using a telephoto lens. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©This is the thematic focus of the América Tropical mural; the eagle of imperialism sitting atop a crucifix from which hangs a murdered Indian. While the mural is a faded “ghost” image, it is remarkable how bright some of the original pigment remains. There are no known color photos of the original artwork, one of the reasons why Getty conservators decided to preserve rather than recreate the painting. A telephoto lens was used to take this photo from the viewing platform. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©A close-up telephoto lens view of the armed revolutionaries Siqueiros painted in the upper right corner of his mural. Carrying bolt-action combat rifles of the day, the men ready an attack upon the imperialist eagle. In the upper right of the photo you can see how the mural was damaged in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake; the Getty Conservation Institute filled in the shattered area with plaster. I should also note that this is the area of the mural where the painting’s colors remain the brightest. This is most likely do to the fact that this portion of the mural could be seen from the street in 1932, and so city authorities had it whitewashed first before the rest of the mural was covered over. I took the photo from the viewing platform using a telephoto lens. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

Photograph by Mark Vallen ©A close-up telephoto lens view of the eagle in América Tropical. This war bird has a mechanized look about it, especially when considering the wings. The rapacious bird is prescient of another eagle Siqueiros would paint seven years later in his 1939 Portrait of the Bourgeoisie mural located in the stairwell of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas in Mexico City. A full throttle attack against the forces of war and fascism, Portrait of the Bourgeoisie also depicted an eagle as a central design element. That metallic bird was fully mechanized and bristled with sharp knife-like edges. It sat atop a huge mechanical press that crushed humanity while spitting out gold coins. A year prior to creating the 1939 mural, Siqueiros went to Spain and joined the Republican Army in the fight against the fascist military of General Franco. Portrait of the Bourgeoisie foretold what was to befall the world with the outbreak of World War II. Photograph by Mark Vallen ©.

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The América Tropical Interpretive Center is now open to the public. Admission is free. The center is located on Olvera Street at: 125 Paseo de La Plaza Los Angeles, CA 90012 (click for map). The center is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can phone the center at (213) 485-6855.

Related events that I will write about in future blog posts:

A Civil Defense: Paintings of Estaño
Philip Stein, aka Estaño, was an assistant to David Alfaro Siqueiros and helped the master paint ten of his greatest works in Mexico City during a ten year period. The estate of Philip Stein is currently exhibiting paintings, drawings, and prints by Estaño at the Take My Picture Gallery in downtown L.A. This not to be missed exhibit runs until December 31, 2012.

¡América Tropical! Celebrating a Siqueiros Masterpiece - Saturday November 3, 2012.
Organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, LA Plaza de Culturas y Artes, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, this festival takes place a short walking distance from the América Tropical mural and the América Tropical Interpretive Center. The festival will include Aztec Dancers, Ballet Folklorico, traditional Mariachi and authentic banda music, street theater, film, food, workshops, and even a performance by the UCLA Philharmonia Orchestra. The festival also includes observance of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). A perfect day to come see the Siqueiros mural! Free admission, the fun begins and 10:30 am and goes on all day. Details and full schedule of events available here.

Oct 9th unveiling of L.A. Siqueiros Mural

Black and white detail from the 1932 "América Tropical" mural by Siqueiros.

Black & white detail from the 1932 América Tropical mural by Siqueiros. "City fathers immediately censored the artwork because of its anti-imperialist sentiments".

I am thrilled to announce the October 9, 2012 public unveiling of David Alfaro Siqueiros’ fully preserved 1932 mural América Tropical, at the site of the mural’s original location, a rooftop wall at the Italian Hall located on Los Angeles’ historic Olvera Street.

Concurrent with the unveiling of the mural will be the official public opening of Olvera Street’s América Tropical Interpretive Center.

October 9th will be a momentous occasion for the arts community and the people of L.A., as well as a significant event for people around the world… since it represents a victory for artistic freedom over the forces of reaction and censorship.

If any one person can be credited for bringing about the preservation of América Tropical, it would be the art historian Shifra M. Goldman (1926-2011), who almost single-handedly waged a campaign to save the Siqueiros mural starting in 1968. She even approached Siqueiros in 1972 with a proposal to recreate a modified version of the mural, a plan the artist agreed to but never completed due to his death in 1974 at the age of 78. Certainly the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and all of its dedicated staff must be applauded for their massive efforts in saving and preserving the mural. I believe the preservation of the Siqueiros mural represents one of the GCI’s finest hours, and their keen efforts will add to the deep and meaningful history of Los Angeles.

The director of the GCI, Tim Whalen, said this of the upcoming unveiling, “Providing public access to América Tropical has been central to this project. From the Getty Conservation Institute’s initial involvement in 1988, it has been a persistent advocate for the conservation of the mural, and the construction of the shelter, and a public viewing platform. We are so pleased to bring América Tropical back to the people of Los Angeles.”

There are many others too numerous to credit by name for helping to bring América Tropical back to life, but the most important factor behind the renovation of the mural is the countless numbers of people who refused to forget the mural and its destruction by a coat of whitewash ordered by city authorities in 1932. As a child my parents took me to Olvera Street on numerous occasions in the late 1950s, where my mother told me the story of the whitewashed mural. It was a tale I did not fully understand until the late 1960s, when Chicano movement activists began to rediscover the works of Siqueiros and other Mexican social realist artists, pointing to L.A.’s América Tropical as a symbol of what Chicanarte (Chicano art) could achieve… if only the will could be found. One can easily say that L.A.’s much heralded mural movement actually started when David Alfaro Siqueiros painted his contentious Olvera Street mural.

I must add that the Los Angeles based organization, Amigos de Siqueiros (Friends of Siqueiros), has played a crucial role in the mural preservation project. I was inducted into the group, and now proudly sit on its Board of Directors. Amigos de Siqueiros has as its mission, the protection, conservation, and promotion of América Tropical and the long-term stewardship of the mural, as well as to advance the legacy of Siqueiros. In my capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of Amigos de Siqueiros, I invite people everywhere to come to Olvera Street on October 9, 2012, to join in the historic unveiling and celebration. In 2002 I attended the public unveiling ceremony the Santa Barbara Museum of Art held for its Siqueiros mural, Retrato del Mexico de hoy: 1932 (Portrait of Mexico Today: 1932), thousands attended the event. The América Tropical unveiling will no doubt attract as large, if not a greater crowd of enthusiastic art lovers.

The Getty Conservation Institute has published press releases in English and Spanish, announcing the Oct. 9th unveiling, as well as a number of other public events coordinated with Amigos de Siqueiros; from movie screenings and speakers forums to symposiums and a tour of Eastside Los Angeles murals. The entire schedule of events are listed in the GCI press releases.

The village that became the modern City of Los Angeles now has a new wrinkle in its complex history. El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles (The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels), was the settlement founded in 1781 by Spanish colonizers; it became the largest city of Mexico’s Alta California after Mexico won its independence from Spain. The municipality was seized by Americans when they invaded Mexico during the American war on Mexico (1846-48), taking 55% of Mexico’s territory under the spurious postwar “Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo“. In the late 20th century Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros painted his América Tropical on a wall in El Pueblo; city fathers immediately censored the artwork because of its anti-imperialist sentiments. In early 21st century Los Angeles the mural returns as a ghost image to remind us all of the folly and transient nature of empire.

América Tropical is not just a faded mural brought back to life, it is a distillation of experiences lived on both sides of the U.S./ Mexico border. It is a collaboration between a master Mexican artist and his “Bloc of Painters” - those 29 U.S. artists that helped paint the Olvera Street mural; the mural is a fusion of cultures and histories, and a sign-post for the way forward in art. It is a consummate example of social realism, that socially engaged school of art that flourished in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe during the years of the Great Depression. Siqueiros and his associates confronted the world crisis of their day through their art, and now artists once again face a global crisis of unparalleled dimension. Perhaps the rebirth of América Tropical will help spark a resurgent social realism for the 21st century…  that just might be the real legacy of Siqueiros.

The public unveiling of América Tropical and the opening of the América Tropical Interpretive Center will occur at noon on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. The ceremony takes place at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Sepulveda House, 125 Paseo de la Plaza, in downtown L.A.

Why Rescue América Tropical?

Flyer announcing "Why Rescue América Tropical?"

Flyer announcing "Why Rescue América Tropical?"

Amigos de Siqueiros are celebrating the 79th anniversary of Siqueiros’ América Tropical mural being unveiled on L.A.’s Olvera Street, with Why Rescue América Tropical? - conversations on the protection and preservation of the world famous wall painting.

The speakers at the forum are the renowned scholar and historian Dr. Irene Herner Reiss, and the award-winning journalist, author, and musician, Rubén Martínez.

Herner Reiss consulted the Autry Museum when it mounted its dazzling Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied exhibit of 2010. Her book, Siqueiros: From Paradise to Utopia, is considered a definitive work on the art, life, and times of the artist. Herner Reiss has devoted a large part of her career to the study of Siqueiros, so those attending her lecture are bound to leave with new insights and perspectives.

To Angelenos Martínez hardly needs an introduction; born in L.A., he is a prolific writer, a onetime TV host on the KCET (PBS Los Angeles) public affairs show,  Life & Times, and currently holds the Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University in L.A.

In May of this year I was elected to sit on the Board of Directors for Amigos de Siqueiros. Given that the group has as its mission the protection, conservation, and promotion of América Tropical, as well as to uphold the legacy of David Alfaro Siqueiros, I am honored to play a role in the organization.

Co-presented by La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Why Rescue América Tropical? takes place on Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 2 p.m. at the newly opened La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, located at 501 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (map). The event is free to the public and discounted admission to the center’s galleries will be available.

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UPDATE: Approximately 70 people showed up to the Why Rescue América Tropical event held in an outdoor patio/garden setting at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Moderated by Amigos de Siqueiros Co-Chairs Dalila Teresa Sotelo and Dan Guerrero, the speakers roster included some surprise guests.

Chris Espinoza, representing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, assured those gathered that the L.A. City government supported Siqueiros América Tropical Mural And Interpretive Center on Olvera Street is on track and making progress. Espinoza reported that initial construction at the center has been completed and that the center’s grand opening should be around March of 2012. Los Angeles Councilmember José Luis Huizar also spoke to those gathered on the importance of the Siqueiros mural to the people of Los Angeles.

Dr. Irene Herner Reiss at the

Dr. Irene Herner Reiss at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Oct., 2, 2011. Photo by Mark Vallen ©.

Next on the roster was Dr. Irene Herner Reiss, who spoke with eloquence and great passion regarding the works of Siqueiros, with an emphasis of course on the artist’s América Tropical mural.

Herner emphasized that Siqueiros’ mural depicted the ruins of Mexico’s indigenous civilizations, and that the mural itself was turned into a ruin of sorts when right-wing city authorities saw to its destruction with a coat of whitewash.

But Herner reminded those gathered that great art can spring from ruins, just as classical European art was influenced by the ruins of ancient Greece. She noted that a full restoration of Siqueiros’ mural was “impossible”, but half-joked that there was nothing “like a strong ghost” to shake things up.

Writer Rubén Martínez and playwright Oliver Mayer then joined Herner in conversation on the legacy of Siqueiros in Los Angeles, a talk that extended to the audience with its many questions and observations concerning Siqueiros and his socially conscious art. Mayer, who wrote the libretto for an opera about Siqueiros aptly titled América Tropical (you can view clips here), directly addressed the many students in the audience - challenging them to use their skills to enact creative social change.

After the event concluded I acquired a copy of Ms. Herner’s just released book, Siqueiros: from Paradise to Utopia, and then had the immense pleasure of talking with Herner for a few minutes. While the Spanish language edition of Herner’s book was released in 2010, there has yet to be an “official” English language release made available to the public. The book is a veritable treasure trove for those with a thirst for knowledge concerning Siqueiros and the Mexican Muralist School. Expect a full review of this invaluable book in a future blog post.

Groundbreaking for Siqueiros Project

Golden shovels used at the Sept. 8, 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center on L.A.'s historic Olvera Street. Photo by Mark Vallen ©.

Golden shovels used at the Sept. 8, 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center on L.A.'s historic Olvera Street. Photo by Mark Vallen ©.

The construction of the Siqueiros América Tropical Mural And Interpretive Center on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles grows ever closer. Carol Jacques, Commission Vice President of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument Authority, invited me to attend the historic groundbreaking ceremony for the Interpretive Center that took place on September 8, 2010, and as someone who has been writing in-depth coverage on this story for years, it was an opportunity I could not pass by.

At 10 a.m. I arrived at the Avila Adobe House on Olvera Street for the scheduled press conference, and found the bungalow filled to capacity with L.A. City government officials, Getty museum functionaries, foreign dignitaries, art aficionados, news media, and many of those who have worked so diligently over the decades to “bring Siqueiros back” to Los Angeles.

The Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, Timothy P. Whalen, at the press conference held at the historic Avila Adobe House, just prior to the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Mark Vallen ©.

The Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, Timothy P. Whalen, at the press conference held at the historic Avila Adobe House, just prior to the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Mark Vallen ©.

Featured speakers who addressed the press conference included the Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, Timothy P. Whalen, and Los Angeles Councilmember José Luis Huizar. Both gave short speeches on the history of the mural, the status of the Interpretive Center project, and their belief that the center will enrich the cultural and intellectual life of Los Angeles.

The setting for the press conference was the aforementioned Avila Adobe House, the oldest house in the city of Los Angeles. It was originally constructed in 1818 by Don Francisco Avila, who was the Mayor of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels). The stucco-clad adobe dwelling was erected before the United States invaded Mexico, forcing it to cede California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming to the U.S. in 1848. The adobe also stood before Mexico won its Independence from Spain in 1821.

Timothy P. Whalen of the Getty, Los Angeles Councilmember José Luis Huizar, along with members of L.A.'s City government and the Getty Center, break ground for the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center. Photo by Mark Vallen ©

Timothy P. Whalen of the Getty, Los Angeles Councilmember José Luis Huizar, along with members of L.A.'s City government and the Getty Center, break ground for the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center. Photo by Mark Vallen ©

I was overwhelmed thinking that the house made from sun-dried bricks of clay and straw, a building that had seen so much history, was now the setting for a press conference announcing the construction of a 21st century interactive arts center. After completion of the news conference, the assembly was invited to move to the adjacent Italian Hall, where the rooftop Siqueiros mural is located and where the actual groundbreaking was to occur.

Susan Macdonald (left), Head of Field Projects for the Getty Conservation Institute, and Leslie Rainer, Senior Project Specialist for the Getty Conservation Institute, address the public and members of the news media on the rooftop of Olvera Street's Italian Hall, where the Siqueiros mural is located. Photo by Mark Vallen ©

Susan Macdonald (left), Head of Field Projects for the Getty Conservation Institute, and Leslie Rainer, Senior Project Specialist for the Getty Conservation Institute, address the public and members of the news media on the rooftop of Olvera Street's Italian Hall, where the Siqueiros mural is located. Photo by Mark Vallen ©

An air of expectation grew as the crowd gathered on the steps of the old Italian Hall, waiting for the historic groundbreaking ceremony to begin as photographers jockeyed for position. In due time representatives of the Getty Center, along with members of L.A.’s City government, took their golden shovels in hand to enact the symbolic breaking of the ground.

With that emblematic gesture, cheers of approval and applause rose up from the crowd, and construction of the Siqueiros América Tropical Mural And Interpretive Center was at last underway.

After the groundbreaking ceremony the media and the public were invited to the rooftop of the Italian Hall to view the current state of the mural project. Due to the precarious condition of the old building, city workers would only allow 25 people at a time to visit the roof, but the wait was worthwhile.

Susan Macdonald, Head of Field Projects for the Getty Conservation Institute, and Leslie Rainer, Senior Project Specialist for the Getty Conservation Institute, greeted those who climbed the stairs to the rooftop. The two lectured on various aspects of the project, and with great enthusiasm answered all questions pertaining to the mural venture. Presently the mural is protected from top to bottom by a metal screen and supporting armature. City officials and Getty staff both made assurances that the project would be completed and ready for public unveiling by the end of two years time.

Rendering of the Siqueiros mural shelter as seen from Union Station. Image courtesy of Pugh + Scarpa Architects ©.

Rendering of the Siqueiros mural shelter as seen from Union Station. Image courtesy of Pugh + Scarpa Architects ©.

When Siqueiros came to L.A. in 1932 as a political refugee, the U.S. was in the throws of the Great Depression. Millions of people were out of work and had lost their homes. The government was involved in the mass expulsion of up to one million people of Mexican descent, including tens of thousands of U.S. citizens; Los Angeles County alone deported up to 80,000 people to Mexico, many of them apprehended on or around Olvera Street and its environs. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War was the opening salvo of what would become WWII. Such matters were surely on the mind of the artist when he painted his mural works during his six-month long exile in L.A.

Rendering of the Siqueiros mural shelter from the viewing platform to be constructed atop Italian Hall. Image courtesy of Pugh + Scarpa Architects ©.

Rendering of the Siqueiros mural shelter from the viewing platform to be constructed atop Italian Hall. Image courtesy of Pugh + Scarpa Architects ©.

As Siqueiros’ América Tropical mural is being reborn on Olvera Street in the early 21st century, the U.S. is in the grip of unemployment rates the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression. Millions of people have lost their homes, city budgets are collapsing and social services are being cut to the bone. Hatred of immigrants is rampant and escalating, and the nation is fighting multiple foreign wars; which is to say, the present political landscape bears an eerie resemblance to the 1930s. The question is not how David Alfaro Siqueiros would react if he were alive, the question is - how will today’s artists respond to the mounting social crisis.