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Spanish Artist's Fling Is Whimsy Fit for a King

August 14, 1987|NIKKI FINKE | Times Staff Writer

Maybe it's too early for heraldic trumpeters, red carpets or even pomp and circumstance. But the King and Queen of Spain are coming to Southern California next month, and everyone is pretty laid-back about it.

Consider, for instance, one of the kick-off events leading up to the two-day visit by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia in late September--an art exhibition sponsored by the Spanish government. Works by El Greco, or Picasso or Dali? Not quite.

The National Tourist Office of Spain commissioned 25-year-old Spanish artist Miguel Garcia to spend six months roaming around Los Angeles in order to present a whimsical perspective of Spain's cultural heritage on the Southland.

In a corner of the lobby of the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood are a dozen pastels that represent Garcia's take on things after spending time in Van Nuys, Venice and Hollywood. One work features Christopher Columbus hitchhiking along a Los Angeles freeway with a ride sign that says "Spain" and a suitcase emblazoned with designer initials. Another shows Father Junipero Serra, the founder of the California missions, having a drink with a punk rocker an an outdoor cafe at Hollywood and Vine.

A third depicts Don Quixote riding in a red convertible down the I-10 with his aide-de-camp Sancho Panza at the wheel and his flag-draped lance pointing at the traffic instead of at windmills. (Obviously, Garcia painted this before the start of the freeway shootings.) Then, there's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella dressed in full royal regalia and Wayfarer sunglasses strolling among the skateboard-riding, bikini-clad crowd on the Venice boardwalk.

In a bid for sentimentality, Garcia also drew a pastel showing Don Quixote, Dali, Panza and Columbus warming up for a track event in the Coliseum during the Los Angeles Olympics and checking out each of the numbers on their backs.

Pituka Caton, deputy director of Spain's National Tourist Office in Beverly Hills, admits that Garcia could paint anything he wanted. "This is a new style for him," she adds.

"I like a lot the colorful and curious characters of California," Garcia said through a translator. Tourist officials are pleased. For one thing, they plan to turn the pastels into posters sometime within the next few months and sell them to the public.

This will be the king's first visit to Southern California. His planned trip in February 1981 was canceled at the last minute when his prime minister resigned. He made a trip later that year to Washington, D.C. The dates of his September visit and his itinerary will not be officially announced until next week, but in addition to Los Angeles, Carlos is expected to visit San Francisco and cities in Texas and New Mexico.

The idea behind the royal visit, in addition to promoting tourism, will be to remind Americans living in the Southwest that they have a deep historical link with Spain. Local Spanish tourism spokeswoman Kathryn Paddock pointed out that now when "you say Spanish to Californians, they automatically think Mexico and South America."

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