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ERASED MURALS, LOST ARTWORKS

photo by Daniel Hernandez

 

1. How would you describe the effects of lost artworks?
—In this way: the Big Man gets bigger. The Big Name is running in the street. Cars drive forward, mental wheels reify, cognating into walls.
2. How do artworks disappear?
—Washed by orange juice.
Washed by lights.
Washed by ideas.
Washed by plastic film.
Washed by notions.
Washed by paper.

They enter museums. Fotos are white walls, frames, labels. They enter books, libraries, data systems. They smudge paper. They arrive at perfection. They are reproduced. They become thin. Sliced sections. They lose dimension. They… They become part of the Wheel of Ideas. The Wheel of Ideas is perceived in the cognate teeth of its Walls.
3. It’s been documented that some people stare at walls as if murals still remain. How about that?
—The wheels are spinning, the wheels are turning. Sometimes you can see through walls into civilizations, into the cracks, inside the sweeping of forces. The teeth of the wheels cognate. The gaze of some viewers may be unique, may float above the vast sweeping.
4. What was the purpose of putting murals on freeways?
—Murals on freeways serve three main purposes according to the Los Angeles Department for Cultural Affairs:

To cover up blank spots on city surfaces, improving overall drivability of the basic interurban grid
Reflection of small silver angels that everyone recognizes, whenever they spot them
To use the technical auras of muralized walls like mental sponges, in order to soak up vague anguish and indeterminate sufferings of lonely adolescent taggers who wish they could go to art school or have girlfriends.
5. Is there a resource where I can find lost artworks?
—Their presence is unstable, like all art, and fleeting: egg shapes, egg sacs of certain insects, in particular frogs (in this regard the extinction of amphibians is to be regarded with real alarm)— and in any urgent lack, in every lapse and interstice of “architectural” or structural need: empty lots, urban renewal, the void above freeways where clouds of carbon monoxide and noxious particulate. Art while formless remains a kinetic energy held in abeyance, awaiting release.
6. Is this discussion limited to lost art works?
—Lost art works relate to gambling losses, lost toys, lost wars, and lost electrons. These categories have not been fully examined, so it may well turn out that small silver angels crowd interstices that may appear to be “cracks”, the angels chattering, melting together, much loss attaches to them.
7 – 8? [lost!]
9. Does the sum total of lost art works create enough mass to relate to new artworks?
—Yes, as civilizations arise, silver angels, flies from larvae, and almost microscopic spiders wafted into the upper atmosphere on strands of web, this is one phase of the transformation of the actual into the virtual, of the objective into the ideal, of lives into atmospheric ash.
10. Is lost artwork a force in the city?
—Cities, walls, structures and architecture are partly constituted of, cohered by, and underpinned by nodes and spots like chewing gum on sidewalks.
11. I want to talk about the absence of lost artworks.
—Speak to the empty windows of surrounding buildings.
12. Do those who erase artworks retain ownership? Is the absence their property? Or does the absence belong to everybody?
—Lost artworks form windows into civilizations. Are windows owned by people looking through them? Who owns the view? The randomness of the view and the many angles of the view may result from accretions of lost artwork, affecting everyone’s view.
13. Do lost artworks come out at night?
—They are little affected by light or dark. They are more affected by activity or stillness, by eating or hunger, by solitary angels or angels crowded into small cracks in all things, chattering.
Left-wing philosophers may say that artworks are born in the night and to the night return. Right-wing philosophers may assert that only in full daylight can one recognize real art, thus art only “really” exists in recognition of official noon. I’ve been a member of the committees where these discussions of darkness and light take place. It makes you feel sick with a giant headache, like sucking gasoline fumes through a siphon hose. I think the fumes drive philosophers whacko. Left-wing philosophers start arguing that human beings only “really” exist in their sleep. Right-wing philosophers start asserting that the only art which ever truly existed with any permanence outside thought exists in photographs from 1949 – 1978, the so-called “Golden Age” of Art History, before digitlization and before the so-called Po-mo Reformation.
14. Are lost artworks those pinpoints of floating light we talked about? Are they constellations we can reconstruct?
Impregnator and 20th century operator Juan Fish has been overheard saying, “Floating points of light can be reconstructed by striking yourself in your face with your fist, but it won’t bring back Eloy Torres dangling from the side of invisible buildings that aren’t there, on top of Bunker Hill that has been taken away. Eloy Torres can paint a Burger King paper crown atop Cheech Marin’s grinning head, but he can’t release fireflies from a mason jar over empty lots of Bunker Hill & Belmont and conjure an atomized community out of the empty (smoggy) air of late afternoon. The atoms have been released. They are floating in the last light of afternoon.”
But Juan Fish is a slippery character and everything attributed to him is a slippery slope. For instance, what about Eloy Torres painting of Diane Gamboa wearing the same crown as Cheech Marin? Does that invalidate her royal status? If so, how does that affect the floating lights?
15. What’s the ratio of preserved artworks to lost artworks?
—Again, we go back to that same argument between the left wings and the right wings of our party. The left wing would probably fall back to the position that it’s all good, that the destruction of artworks (public images) causes them to revert back to “the people,” that deepest reservoir of fertility, which retains the initial impulses of creativity in the form of dark, formless kinetic energy. The right wing would counter that that’s wishful thinking, religious in nature, unscientific and self-defeating. The right wing would argue that all public images, often supported by tax dollars and located on or near public right of ways, on or near public property, are singular, unique historical monuments per se, and as such, represent high points of the movement, of community consciousness articulated in its most concrete and accessible form, a spiritual resource for all, and therefore, the community must be mobilized to fight for public images on its own behalf, to the very last one. Its memory, its history, its demands necessarily depend on these images. The right wing thus asserts that when the public image is erased, the community itself is atomized and dispersed in spiritual particles. It accuses, in its most desperate moments, the left wing of its own party of participating in the destruction of legacy, of communality, of our goofy looking but actual past, in its own specious, thin, deluded nostalgia and idealism, of trying to go back to the womb of the people, go back to formless darkness and hide from our political responsibilities. The committee meetings, town halls, panel presentations and university conferences at which these views are exchanged luckily are never attended by more than a handful of people, who are not on the A List.
16. Do we have accurate records of lost artworks according to zip code, community or demographic areas?
—Such records and archives have been researched and tabulated by writers such as Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Mario Payeras, Miguel Hernandez, and have been authored by Tiburcio Vasquez, Joaquin Murieta, Ralph Williams Ford, and Charles Mingus. Access to these and many other related documents can be found at:
Chicano Resource Center
East Los Angeles Library
Daniel Hernandez, Librarian
4837 E. Third St.
Los Angeles, CA 90022-1601
(323) 263-5087
CRC@library.lacounty.gov

 



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