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City's Rancho Park Area Enriched With a 79-Foot-Long Neighborhood Wall Mural

December 06, 1992|NANCY KAPITANOFF | Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

Until last month, the Rancho Park area had been deprived of one of the great art forms associated with Los Angeles. No one had dared to enrich a neighborhood wall with a mural.

Thanks to the Florence Gardner picture framing shop at 10534 W. Pico Blvd.--which volunteered its east wall--and the Social and Public Art Resource Center's "Great Walls Unlimited: Neighborhood Pride" mural program, the community can take in the beauty and the cautionary theme of its first mural, "The Chain Undone," by Eva Cockcroft. SPARC held a dedication ceremony at the site two weeks ago.

Cockcroft, a Los Angeles resident since 1989 who began painting murals in 1972 in New Jersey, was one of 10 artists commissioned this year by SPARC's city-financed program to create murals in various city neighborhoods. She was moved to do a composition on the fragile nature of coastal wetlands by "threats to the wetlands and coastal waters from new regulations" proposed earlier this year by the Bush Administration, she said.

"There was a great deal of concern that 50% or more of the wetlands that exist would no longer be protected under those new guidelines. They were rescinded a few months later because of the outcry of a lot of people, but that was what prompted me to get started on doing this mural."

The central panel of the 79-foot-long acrylic-on-brick mural depicts a brightly colored, idealized vision of a bird sanctuary on the California coast. Hues of purple, blue, green and gold convey a sense of lushness and gaiety.

The two-side panels have been painted in black and white. On the mural's extreme left edge, above its title, Cockcroft quotes from the song, "Red Hill Mining Town" by the rock group, U2: "And we scorch the earth/Set fire to the sky/Stoop so low to/Reach so high."

The left panel, which Cockcroft calls "Death of Nature," shows her rendition of an oil refinery and the consequences of development and industrial pollution. The right panel, "Death of Culture," presents an image of a city ruined by urban violence and war.

Assisted by a youth team that included Agustin Gonzalez, Otono Lujan and Juan Burgueno, Cockcroft painted the mural in September and October. She said it can be read in two different ways.

"You can read it as this paradise on earth which exists and which we need to maintain if we're going to keep the planet. It's something which is expanding and the color is coming out to the ends. We're going to improve the environment," she said. "Or you can read it the other way. The gray and black and white are closing in on the little bit that is left of nature."

Cockcroft, who is currently working on a painted tile project for the Blue Line transit station in Compton, also recently completed a mural in Long Beach, "Open Minds, Open Hearts, Building the Future." Sponsored by the City of Long Beach Department of Parks and Recreation Mural Arts Program, it was painted in the aftermath of the riots in Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Since moving to Los Angeles, she has also painted, "History of Women in the Labor Movement," on the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research in South Central Los Angeles, and "Oil, Life and Ecology" on the National Guard Seventh Street Armory in Long Beach.

A studio artist as well, Cockcroft said she loves doing public art because of "the response that you get from the people in the communities where you're working. You really get to feel like a part of a community in a way that you never do even living in a place because you're out on the street where you're very accessible."

While working on "The Chain Undone," she said, "people would come by every day and talk about the progress I'd made. It's very different from working in the studio--kind of immediate gratification from that contact with people.

"It makes you feel useful. When you paint murals, you feel like you're giving something very directly to the people who live in the neighborhood, and they're involved very directly in the theme and the subject. And I like the fact that the work is in the public and therefore it has a greater and different audience than work that's in a gallery."

"The Chain Undone" is on view 24 hours a day at Florence Gardner Picture Framing, 10534 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For further information on SPARC's murals program, call (310) 822-9560.


GLASSWORKS: The Daniel Saxon Gallery has begun a regular series of glass exhibits with its current show, "Out of the Fire," featuring the work of Sonja Blomdahl and Danny Perkins.

Both artists are from the Northwest and have studied and taught at Pilchuck, the notable glass school in Washington.

"I look at glass as sculpture," said gallery director Daniel Saxon. "I plan to show glass 12 months a year that is part and parcel of what I normally do with paintings, drawings and sculpture."

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