Lawsuit filed over removal of L.A. Fine Arts Squad mural in Venice

The site where the mural "Brooks Avenue Painting" once stood in Venice.
The site where the mural “Brooks Avenue Painting” once stood in Venice.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A lawsuit has been filed over the destruction of a public mural in Venice that was created in 1969 by the group Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad.

Artist Victor Henderson, a cofounder of the group, alleges that the mural, known as the “Brooks Avenue Painting,” was improperly expunged last summer from its location using water blasting, according to papers filed this week in federal court.

The mural, which is famous for having served as a backdrop for a photographic portrait of the rock band the Doors, has been replaced with a replica of the original painted by another artist.


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The suit names filmmaker-artist Ralph Ziman as one of the defendants, saying that he owned the building in Venice where the mural was located at the time of its removal. The suit alleges that Ziman and the contractor who worked for him didn’t give Henderson a 90-day advance notice as required by California law.

“Brooks Avenue Painting” is a photo-realistic depiction of a Venice street. Henderson cofounded L.A. Fine Arts Squad with the late Terry Schoonhoven, and the group created a small number of murals around Southern California.

A lawyer representing Henderson said they tried to reach an agreement with the defendants but were not successful. The plaintiff is seeking damages and increased awareness about mural conservation, according to Eric Bjorgum of the Pasadena firm Karish & Bjorgum.

Bjorgum represented renowned L.A. muralist Kent Twitchell in his case involving the painting-over of his “Ed Ruscha Monument” in 2006. The lawyer has also been active with the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

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Ziman and his representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit says that Henderson was not given the opportunity to discuss saving the mural. “Instead it is now gone forever and has been replaced by a replica that does not reflect the quality work” of the original artists, the complaint states.

Last year, The Times reported on the removal of the mural. Ziman had expressed a desire to paint members of the Doors into the replica but ultimately agreed not to do it.

The lawsuit argues that “Brooks Avenue Painting” could have been removed from the building “without substantial physical defacement, mutilation, alteration or destruction.”


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