The trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) mural at the 11th and 12th floors of the north and Hill Street sides of the Subway Terminal Building incorporates windows of the building into its design and imitates the arches and pilasters from the Italian Renaissance styled facade.(1) Six types of paint were used on the false windows to create the appearance of the solar film on the real windows. Two life size painters on a scaffold appear to be completing the mural. A sign, advertising Evergreene Studios with its telephone number (which is no longer the correct one), hangs on the scaffold.
The $75,000 work, commissioned by David Hart, who purchased the 1926 building in 1979, is the longest public art installation in downtown. According to the Los Angeles Times, Hart was drawn to trompe l'oeil murals by reading "An Architecture of Illusion" by Richard Haas. A New York City artist, Haas specializes in trompe l'oeil murals that often incorporate architectural elements in their composition. Hart suggested painting the Subway Terminal's architectural features on blank walls as part of an extensive restoration and renovation of the structure undertaken at the time by architect Brenda Levin. Because of cost, however, the painting was limited to the top two floors. Barbara Hart, the developer's wife, suggested adding the painters on the scaffold to the mural.(2)
Noted Los Angeles muralist Terry Schoonoven was instrumental in helping Hart and Levin contact Jeffrey Greene to paint the mural. Greene, who previously executed a number of Haas' murals, prepared a full size cartoon of the Subway Terminal Building mural, then punched holes into the paper along the lines of the figures. After being taped to the wall, the cartoon was pounded with bags of charcoal, which left an outline of the architectural features on the building. Using a weather resistant silica paint from Germany, four artists hired by Greene executed the work in early 1986.(3)
Footnotes:1. "Tricky mural," photograph and caption in the Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1986, Part VIII, p. 8.
2. "Seeing is Believing--But Not at This Site," by Lynn Simross, Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1986, Part V, p. 1.
3. Interview of Jeffrey Greene by Michael Several, February 6, 1990.
The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, May, 1998.
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