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Mural-in-Progress Depicts L.A. Culture

As a curator of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Luis Ituarte figures he knows artists.

“They like to be challenged,” he said.

So when Venezuelan painter Marcial Godoy Opazo was scheduled to show his artworks at the city’s Lankershim Arts Center in North Hollywood, Ituarte asked him to create a piece especially for the exhibit. A complex piece. A big piece.

All this month, Opazo is spending his afternoons at the arts center, painting an 8-by-24-foot mural that represents the past, present and future of Los Angeles. Ituarte asked him to fill the large space with images that evoke the drama of the city’s multicultural changes and the richness of all the cultures that exist in this metropolis.

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“I didn’t intend to abuse him,” Ituarte said. “I knew from his work that he was capable of this.”

“Creando un Mural (The Making of a Mural)” gives art lovers a chance to watch, step-by-step, the evolution of an ambitious work. On Aug. 30, the project will conclude with a reception and “completion fiesta” at the arts center.

Opazo, who speaks no English, said through an interpreter that the combination of time elements into one work comes naturally to him. He also feels comfortable painting in the public eye, having taught art classes and set up his easel outdoors to work on landscapes. Opazo now turns his gaze toward one of the world’s largest urban centers.

“I’ve seen the evolution of this city,” said Opazo, who has often visited Los Angeles during the past two decades and has been a full-time resident since 1989. “Fifteen years ago, it was totally different from the city I see now.”

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The mural takes the form of a triptych, depicting three generations of people posed shoulder-to- shoulder with skyscrapers in the distant background.

The other paintings on display are appreciably smaller and striking in their dramatic simplicity. Godlike men, and mothers and young girls populate canvases of, for instance, deep turquoise and burnt orange. These figures come to us from both the present and the past--as far back as the ancient pre-Columbian cultures--and are placed in such disparate settings as jungles and town plazas.

Opazo has shown his work throughout Europe, North America and Latin America. He is a member of the Assn. of Fine Arts of Chile and Venezuela and of the Los Angeles Art Assn. His work is concurrently on display at the Dyansen Gallery in Beverly Hills.

“Creando un Mural” is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. The exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is free. Call (818) 989-8066.

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