Restoration of Siqueiros mural to close downtown L.A. street

From cycling celebrations to protest marches to filming, street closures are a part of life in downtown L.A. But it's something altogether different this week for a section of Main Street from Arcadia Street to Cesar Chavez Avenue, where the road is being blocked to make room for a restoration effort involving one of the city's key pieces of public art, "América Tropical."

Part of an ongoing partnership between the city and the Getty, the only mural by Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros that is still in its original location will be fitted for a protective canopy, starting today.

The process is to include using a crane to attach the canopy over the mural's 90-foot span along the south wall of the Italian Hall in Chinatown. Plans are for the street to be blocked off through Wednesday, until the crane is taken down.

Also part of the nearly $10-million project ($6 million of which was picked up by public funds) are a rooftop viewing platform and an interpretive center, which when completed are to include exhibits on Siqueiros as well as the making and restoration of "América Tropical." Following multiple bureaucratic and technical delays that have added up to the longest-running commitment on the part of the Getty Conservation Institute, the fully conserved mural is scheduled to open this fall.

A controversial work of art since it was completed in 1932, the mural was partially whitewashed just months after it was unveiled, and fully covered within 10 years. Featuring a central image of a Mexican Indian bound to a cross under an American eagle, the work was first targeted for restoration in 1969 with the rise of the Chicano movement.

Damaged by whitewashing and decades of sun damage, the mural is being restored after extensive research by the Getty Conservation Institute, which is working to recapture Siqueiros' work by re-creating his original materials. The institute has also pledged to maintain the work in the 10 years following its completion.

After so much time, it's not a bad trade for a few days of traffic inconvenience.


L.A.'s long-running Siqueiros affair

A forgotten Siqueiros mural resurfaces in Los Angeles

Art review: "Siqueiros: Landscape Painter" and "Siqueiros in L.A.: Censorship Defied"

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World