Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles

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Volume 9, Number 1 -- Winter, 1998





Frank Romero, "Going to the Olympics"

MCLA's Mural Rescue Program embraces close to two-dozen important murals. Periodically the financial burden or technical demands of properly maintaining one of these makes it too much of a stretch for us to do everything necessary to rescue a mural from oblivion. Two such cases were created as part of one of the most significant mural projects ever created in L.A., the Olympic Mural Project along the Harbor (110) and Hollywood (101) freeways in the downtown area, originally done in 1984. 

The two are Kent Twitchell's Seventh Street Altapiece, damaged and partially hidden due to recent freeway retrofitting; and Frank Romero's Going to the Olympics, which has not only suffered a recent excess of graffiti tags, but the original color has faded badly. The work requires a repainting from the ground up. Twitchell's needs to be removed and placed in a new location to reassert it's full aesthetic force.

Both artists, working with MCLA, have agreed to create original limited edition serigraphs that will be sold in order to collect the unusually large amount of money required to save each.

Each image will pay homage to the mural that they will support. Thus, Romero's


Kent Twitchell, "7th Street Altarpiece" (west wall)

four-foot-wide version of cars and hearts is a single horizontal image, while Twitchell's diptych mural of artists Lita Albuquerque and Jim Morphesis will be matched by a pair of prints. Production of both artists' editions is scheduled for the summer, but advance purchase of both is available. All three prints will be produced in editions of 100, with pricing tentatively set at $1,200 each. Discounting will be extended to MCLA members, and there will also be price reductions for pre-release purchases, and purchase of two or more prints. Twitchell plans to work on his serigraphs with printmaker Jeff Wasserman, Romero with Victor Santoyo. The cost of purchases of the prints made from MCLA will also qualify for a charitable tax deduction within IRS rules.

With revenue raised from its print editions, Twitchell's Altarpiece will be removed from its present location at the 7th Street underpass of the Harbor (110) Freeway and relocated a mile north to the Alpine Ave. underpass of the same freeway. Romero will completely repaint the original Going to the Olympics mural at it's present location.

Bill Lasarow



Kent Twitchell, "7th Street Altarpiece" (east wall)

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The following new murals were completed through February. If you want your public to know about your newest mural, please send the information, along with a picture if possible, to Robin Dunitz, PO Box 64668, Los Angeles 90064. Or you can call (310) 470-8864.

Elliot Pinkney, "Evolution of the Spirit," L.A. Southwest College Library (exterior), 1600 West Imperial Highway (between Western and Normandie), South Los Angeles. Sponsored by L.A. Southwest Community College Foundation, L.A. Southwest College (LASC) Associated Student Organization, Fox Hills Mall Scholarship Fund, LASC Academic Senate. Created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the school. Theme is the arts in education.

Cindy Scheckel with fifth grade class from Madison Elementary School, "How We Came to the Fifth World," Ashtabula St. and Los Robles Ave., Pasadena. Done as part of the city's graffiti abatement program. Two hundred feet long. The image is based on an ancient myth that suggests we live in the "5th world" because earlier worlds were destroyed by natural disasters: fire, wind, flood and famine.

ManOne, Vyal, Kofie, Sacred and others, Untitled spraycan masterpiece, behind Studio 9, facing parking lot, Gower and Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.


Elliot Pinkney, "Evolution of the Spirit," mural at L.A. Southwest College, Los Angeles, 1997.


ManOne, VyAl, Kofie and Sacred, "Untitled," mural at Gower and Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, 1997.


Judith Baca with the Digital Lab at SPARC, "History of the Ahmanson Theatre," Mark Taper Forum Annex, Temple and Grand Ave., Downtown Los Angeles. Joins similar mural featuring highlights from plays that make up the history of the Mark Taper Forum.

Annie Sperling, "Thai Floating Market," Racha Restaurant (exterior), 850 N. Vermont Ave. (at Normal), East Hollywood. Eight hundred square feet. Depicts an aerial view of produce vendors on small boats.

Carlos Chavez-Andonegui and Richard Valdes, "The Community Through the Eyes of a Child," Buchanan Street School, 5024 Buchanan St. (at North Avenue 50), Highland Park. Ceramic Tiles, 42 panes, each 19 x 23". Inspired by the work of Barcelona architect Antonio Gaudi, this whimsical broken-tile mural is a scene of the neightborhood with children playing among animals, plants and buildings.

Arthur Mortimer, "Santa Monica Beach," Santa Monica Public Parking Structure #1, 1234 4th St., Santa Monica. Dimensions, 40 x 140'. A montage of scenes of life on the beach in Santa Monica. Mortimer was assisted by Andrea Reti, Carlos Rittner, and Ernesto de la Loza (see picture on page 6).



by Art Mortimer


Art Mortimer, "Santa Monica Beach," new mural
at 1234 4th St., Santa Monica, 47 x 150', 1998.
Posing with the mural are (l. to r.) Mortimer,
Ernesto de la Loza, and Andrea Reti. This mural
sports the artist's special "Soluvar" coating, as
discussed in the article.

As a member of the board of the Mural Conservancy I have participated in many discussions about the maintenance and conservation of murals and the problems that can occur as a mural is exposed to the environment and society's demons over the years. Board member and art conservator Nathan Zakheim has been recommending for many years coating murals with Soluvar as a final coating. According to Zakheim, Soluvar protects artwork very well, is non-yellowing, and can be removed if necessary to make repairs or modifications to the painting underneath.

Soluvar is the Liquitex paint company's trade name for a solvent-based acrylic varnish. This varnish is used by museums, art conservators, etc., to protect valuable paintings and artwork and is used by many artists (not just muralists) as a final picture varnish.

I am currently in the middle of a very large mural project in Santa Monica which is being sponsored by the City of Santa Monica. The City initially was insisting upon some sort of anti-graffiti coating for the mural, even though almost 98% of the mural is totally inaccessible to anyone except mountain climbers and human flies, as it is high up on a large, blank wall. I was not so concerned about graffiti, but was concerned about the effects of weathering. Therefore I decided to coat the mural with Soluvar, giving it some anti-graffiti protection and excellent protection from the weather.

I became convinced of this recently when, going through my files, I came upon a sketch for a small (4 x 8') outdoor mural I had done years ago for a store here in Santa Monica. It is the only mural I have ever coated with Soluvar. I go by the store occasionally and see that the mural still looks good, and I have stopped a few times and seen that it is still in excellent condition: the colors are bright and vivid, it has not peeled, and the surface is still shiny. The sketch for this mural that I found in my file was dated 1980! I couldn't believe it. 17 years!

This convinced me that I wanted to coat this current mural with Soluvar, as it is certainly the biggest and hopefully the best piece I have ever done. The main problem with this, however, is cost: Soluvar can easily cost upwards of $100 a gallon. A small 8-ounce jar costs almost $9.00 at a discount art supply. This current project would probably require 15 to 20 gallons to cover the entire mural. There was no way I could afford that within the fixed budget for this project.

I did have an option, however. Zakheim had spoken several times about making his own "Soluvar" at a much lower cost, and had even helped the Mural Conservancy make our own "Soluvar" to coat some of the murals in our Mural Rescue Program.

I went to Zakheim to get as much information as possible about making this varnish, and can now report that I have successfully purchased raw materials, mixed the varnish, and applied it to one large section of the mural (the mural is being completed in sections).

I purchased enough materials to make 2 batches (approx. 5-6 gallons per batch), and the total cost is about $300, or $30 per gallon. Zakheim recommends applying the varnish very thin. It is strong and it doesn't take much to protect, he says.

Following is a recipe for making your own Soluvar-type varnish to use as a final picture varnish for murals.


  • 2 gallons Xylene or Toluene solvent.
  • 3 gallons V.M.&P. Naptha solvent.
  • 3 lbs. Acryloid B-67 resin (powder).
  • 2 qts. Acryloid F-10 resin (liquid).

Solvents are available at professional paint stores.

Acryloid resins can be ordered from businesses that supply materials to art conservators. Some of these are:

·  Conservation Support Systems, Santa Barbara, CA, (800) 482-6299.

·  Conservation Resources, Springfield, VA, (703) 321-7730.

·  Conservation Materials , Sparks, NV, (800) 733-5283 (this company was the preferred supplier, but as of 9/97 was not actively doing business. They may be back soon. Call to find out.


  • In a metal 5-gallon bucket place 2 gallons (or less; less is preferable) of either XYLENE or TOLUENE (xylene is preferable; toluene is more volatile). Metal buckets are preferable to plastic because there is a slight danger of spontaneous combustion with these ingredients in a plastic bucket. Metal buckets can be difficult to find, but some industrial paints and other materials still come packaged in them. I found some outside a factory that makes wrought iron. The lacquer they use to paint the iron comes in metal buckets. I cleaned out the old paint and it worked fine.
  • Using a 1/2 inch drill motor with 5-gallon mixing bit, VERY slowly mix in 3 lbs. of acryloid B-67 resin crystals, a little bit at a time. If starting with less than 2 gallons of solvent and having difficulty dissolving all the crystals, more solvent can be added, up to 2 gallons total.
  • Slowly mix in 2 qts. of acryloid F-10 resin liquid. (B-67 is a hard, brittle resin; F-10 soft and flexible. This combination makes the resin hard and durable, yet somewhat flexible).
  • Mix for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours total, or until fully mixed.

This makes a CONCENTRATED Soluvar-type varnish (about 2 to 2-1/2 gallons). This concentrate can then be stored (in tightly sealed containers, of course) until you are ready to use it. Transfer to a plastic 5-gallon bucket with tight-fitting lid for storage.

Use this concentrate to prepare an appropriate amount of dilute varnish when you are ready to apply it. Makes approximately 5-6 gallons diluted.

When I diluted the varnish for application to the mural I placed the entire 2+ gallons in a clean 5-gallon bucket and diluted with V.M.&P. naptha to the top of the bucket. This made a wonderful, thin varnish which was applied to the mural with rollers with no problems. It created a thin, shiny, hard coating with no bubbles that dries in a few minutes, will keep the mural looking bright and clean, and add years to the life of the mural.

Approximately 4-1/2 gallons covered about 1200-1300 square feet of mural with one, thin coat rolled on. The varnish can be made thinner or thicker (by adding more or less naptha) for either spraying or applying with brushes (thinner for spraying, thicker for brushing).

One note of caution: this varnish seals the mural surface completely. If the wall has a problem with moisture soaking into the wall from behind, the varnish can trap the moisture in the paint layer which can then cause areas of the mural to be obscured by whitish discoloration.



by Orville O. Clarke, Jr.



Hugo Ballin,"Four Freedoms"
(detail--Freedom of Religion),
Burbank City Hall.

One of the best kept secrets in Southern California are the beautiful murals and bas reliefs in Burbank's 1940's WPA sponsored art deco City Hall. Tucked away in City Council chambers, the City Attorney's office and floating above the lobby staircase are three seldom seen murals; while stunning bas reliefs decorate the front and sides of the building. Thousands of people drive down Olive Avenue every day, unaware of the treasures decorating the city's headquarters.

The most impressive of the three murals is Hugo Ballin's 11 x 22' Four Freedoms mural completed in 1942. The oil on canvas work dominates the City Council chambers and celebrates Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1941 "Four Freedoms" speech given at the signing of the Atlantic Charter. The composition is dominated by four large allegorical figures who occupy the upper half of the canvas and represent the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. As the artist wrote in 1943: "The lower section of the mural depict [sic] these freedoms put into practice in everyday experience."

On the far left, we see a seated woman, her lap full of books representing the printed word in various languages, while behind her hangs the alphabet. In her hand, according to the artist, she holds a disk showing lips which illustrate the spoken word. Below her are various figures, in front of the California state flag, forcefully addressing crowds; beneath them is a seated bespeckled man in a suit working at a typewriter. Ballin said he is working on a speech, but he could also function as a representative of the free press.

The most interesting part of this section is the black man, we see from behind, addressing a crowd. Ballin, always a risk taker and willing to challenge the establishment, has included blacks in the main stream of American life many years ahead of the civil rights movement. Very rarely in murals created during the '30s and '40s were positive images of minorities included.

The religious freedom section is dominated by Moses, who holds the tablets, while below him the Pope is reading from the New Testament facing three Jewish men, one of whom is holding the Torah. Beneath the Pope, a Native American is protecting a sacred flame next to a group of people kneeling in prayer in front of a preacher.

The third large figure represents Plenty. She holds fruits and flowers. Beneath her is a market which demonstrates the emerging prosperity of the nation and dramatic recovery from the depression. We see a woman with a basket of goods buying from the grocer, while a young boy on a tricycle with a "BBC 1942" license plate holds out his hand for a treat.

Finally, freedom from fear is shown according to the artist by a strong man holding a tablet which is a symbol of the opposition to the instruments of war and aggression. Beneath them a family eats a meal, while outside a young farmer and his wife hold a little baby, further proof of the resilience of the human spirit. Nearby is a young boy playing with a dog next to a black man reading a paper. This ideal landscape is contrasted to the background, where we see men destroying the weapons of war.

This is one of Ballin's best murals. Although the subject matter may seem like cheerleading for Roosevelt's new deal policies, the execution and color scheme is excellent and the composition is first rate. Unfortunately, the drop roof of the City Council Chambers covers the top part of the mural and the canvas is in need of some restoration. The city is currently looking into fixing these problems. Feel free to stop by and take a peak at this little known gem.

The other Ballin mural, Burbank Industry, located above the central lobby was 24 x 8' until the lower third was cut away to make room for a door leading to the new addition to city hall. (The missing third of the mural is now at the Burbank Historical society.) The remaining section honors the motion picture and airplane industries of the city, though far less convincingly than Barse Miller's mural for the nearby post office did in 1940. This is a dark and rather unimaginative mural that does not showcase the artist's considerable talents.

A far more interesting, though considerably more diminutive panel, is Bartholomew de Mako's Justice, a portable federal art project mural now in the City Attorney's Office lobby. Set against the background of the capitol in Washington D.C., we see justice holding the scales in her left hand and an American flag in the right. Beneath her are six figures representing the diverse group of citizens who benefit from our impartial system of jurisprudence. Recently restored, the brilliant pallette jumps off the canvas. Burbank officials are to be commended for rescuing this beautiful work of art.

Next time you are in the neighborhood, stop by Burbank City Hall to view their treasures. Also when there, be sure to go to the east side of the building to view de Mako's bas relief Tribute to Craftsmen.





Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles Journal

Published quarterly, © 1998, Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA).

Editor: Bill Lasarow
Contributing Editors:
Robin Dunitz, Orville O. Clarke, Jr., Nathan Zakheim
Masthead Logo Design: Charles Eley.

The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles was formed to help protect and document murals, and enhance public awareness of mural art in the greater Los Angeles area. These programs are made possible by the tax-deducible dues and donations of our members, the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the California Arts Council, the National/State/County Partnership Program, and the Brody Fund of the California Community Foundation.