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UCI Mural Is Critiqued From an Artistic Frame of Reference

The construction-wall mural at UC Irvine (March 3) has drawn criticism for being racist, sexist or obscene. I would criticize it on entirely different grounds: that it really has nothing to do with what a university-level art course, particularly at the junior or senior level, should be pursuing.

I would expect such art classes to have two goals. They should seek to develop the young artists’ technical skills, in adroitly using their instruments to execute faithfully the concepts of their imaginations. And such classes should also hone the students’ appreciation of subtlety, nuance and taste in the arts. The Irvine mural suggests strongly that these advanced art students have done neither of these things.

The “art” consists in the main of poorly executed line sketches, with a decidedly amateurish quality. And the choice of topic is even more execrable. The nude woman, chained to a house with a wedding ring, amounts to nothing more than the crudest and most blatant feminist propaganda. The rendering of the Ku Klux Klan, in turn, shows a decided poverty of imagination. Has its author no points to make except obvious ones?

The unschooled street artists of East Los Angeles, painting murals within their barrios, often have produced work that is technically better executed and far richer in verve and imagination. If that UCI mural is the best we can expect of that university’s artists, perhaps we the people are discovering another tax-supported activity that is ripe for cutbacks!

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T. A. HEPPENHEIMER

Fountain Valley


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