Public murals have been a poignant reflection of the diversity and vitality of Los Angeles since the late 1960's. Painted on blank walls overlooking parking lots, facing alleys and streets and bordering multi-laned freeways, murals express values, ideals and experiences in a language understood by ordinary people. By giving voice to communities often ignored by established economic, political and artistic institutions, murals have helped neighborhoods forge their own unique identity within a large and impersonal urban contex. This mix of art and service for the common good is being kept alive in part by Neighborhood Pride: Great Walls Unlimited, a project administered by the Social and Public Art Resources Center. Funded primarily through an annual grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles, the program has sponsored numerous murals thoughout the city since 1989.
Flight of the Angel, painted on the east wall of Modern Age Photo Service, Inc., is among the nine murals commissioned during the programs's first year. Life's possibilities, expressed with human and divine imagery, is the work's central theme. A single-point perspective and the symmetry of the centrally placed Los Angeles City Hall bring order to the layers of spaces in the mural's composition. Two boys, modeled after Yashida's nephews, stand on a green border and look into a traditional Japanese room with its straw mat (tatami) covered floor. At the opposite end of the room, two girls, dressed in Yukata, or summer kimono, look into an open space framed by sliding doors (fusuma) embellished with seascapes that pay homage to Hokusai (1760-1849), one of Japan's most brilliant woodcut artists. A depiction of a Japanese room divider with holes for air circulation embellishes the top of the mural. Symbolizing the city's cultural and racial diversity, three children walk toward the Los Angeles City Hall, which is highlighted by lines of luminescent balls representing the universe. The horizontal blue band in front of City Hall and the blue elsewhere in the mural represent water as a symbol of life and rebirth. The two identical figures in the sky, each holding an umbilical cord connected to a purple globe symbolizing birth, are Hi-bokanun, the androgynous Buddist angel who protects childbirth. Small triangles enclosed in circles at the far edges of the low band of mountains on the distant horizon represent the monument at the entrance to Manzanar, the concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II in the Owen Valley.
The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, December 1997.
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