Mirage Fountain

Raul Guerrero, 1993

Grand Hope Park, Grand and 9th Streets, Los Angeles.

The artist statement (below) comes from the SOS! Files held by the Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library at USC:

The original idea for the fountain, Mirage, came to me in the form of a dream. I was staying at a hotel in San Francisco where Larry Halprin the landscape architect, the other artist involved in the project at the time and I have been having a marathon of meetings discussing the various issues and design possibilities for the park, when I had this dream.

The dream had a coiled serpent surrounding a quartz crystal formation, within the crystal floated an egg. Somehow, I canít remember exactly how, a tortoise and jack rabbit wove themselves in and out of this dream. That was all. After returning to my studio I began working on this collective of thoughts to arrive at a visual representation of what I had dreamt. I wanted to see whether it could be employed as a basis for the fountain, which I had been commissioned to create. Eventually the idea was somewhat resolved and at the following artists collaborative meeting the drawings were presented the thoughts discussed and everyone seemed to agree that it was worthwhile pursuing. With modifications of course. Over the course of two years, making models, drawings, having discussions, investigating possible materials, receiving advice from everyone participating in the project, the final model was completed. The actual work resembling very closely this original model.

In the meantime, the issues that came coming up was what the whole thing meant, symbolically speaking. I hired a student of myth to research the images inherent to the project and this is what she reported. The obvious images are the tortoise and the hare, going back to European fables, probably English, this is one that we are all quite familiar with, and seemingly quite appropriate for Los Angeles.

The other elements were somewhat more difficult to decipher. It seems that what I was dealing with here was a creation myth concept that was native to many indigenous groups of the Pacific Rim. It goes something like this. Smoke was represented by the serpent, the tortoise represented the sky, smoke coiled its way to the sky and out of this union came an egg from which emerged man-kind. Variations of this creation myth can be found among the pre-contact culture of the Americas, i.e., Aative Americans, and as mentioned before among various cultural groups throughout the Pacific Rim. Inadvertently I had stumbled onto a creation myth concept, one that I saw as being appropriate for Los Angelenos, with its diverse ethnic population, a mythology that would address everyone, creation itself.

The fountain is made of quartzite a material that is quarried in Utah. The snake configuration is of gold, the crystal is of white, the geometric pattern is of grey. The tortoise shell motif and the mural on one facet of the crystal are of Venetian, French and Mexican mosaic glass. Approximately 150,000 pieces were used to create these elements. Within the imagery of the mural, an impressionistic desert scene, can be discerned a jack-rabbit. On one ledge of the crystal formation is a stylized art-deco tortoise shell. Within the major crystal, the water source, is a bronze egg, this egg is not visible from ground level, but is to the resident of the adjoining buildings. Viewable to the angels.

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