Getty Conservation Institute

¡América Tropical! Celebrating a Siqueiros Masterpiece

A few weeks ago, on October 9, the much-anticipated unveiling of the recently conserved mural América Tropical by David Alfaro Siqueiros—one of the great Mexican artists of the 20th century—took place. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and James Cuno, president and CEO of the Getty Trust, cut the ribbon, and the América Tropical Interpretive Center was officially open. It was the culmination of many years of efforts by the Getty Conservation Institute and the City of Los Angeles to study, conserve, protect, and provide the public with access to the mural.

This past Saturday, November 3, it was the community’s turn to celebrate and explore the artistic, social, and historical significance of América Tropical at a family festival presented by the Getty Conservation Institute, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. From a Day of the Dead altar by artist Ofelia Esparza dedicated to Siqueiros, to Mayan twins vanquishing demons, there was something for everyone—including mariachi musicians, Aztec dancers, capering skeletons, street theater, and fun workshops, as well as an opera and a philharmonic performance, both inspired by América Tropical.

For Ofelia Espaza, who has been creating altars for over 30 years, this was an opportunity to bring awareness to an artist who had been so censored for his political views only a few yards away. “He left not only Los Angeles a treasure, but the whole world,” said the 80-year-old artist. “His work still resonates today. I always wanted to put across an idea that was larger and more universal. That’s quite an inspiration to any artist.”

Asumi on the viewing platform of the América Tropical Interpretive Center.

And of course, it was an opportunity to visit the new América Tropical Interpretive Center and view the mural. Among the crowd waiting patiently to access the viewing platform were elementary-school student reporters and members of PressFriends, Asumi (Peacock Press), Liliana (BGC Kids News), and Fibiana, a PressFriends mentor. All three will be reporting back to their classmates about América Tropical and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

If you weren’t able to join in the fun, you can still have your own celebration. The América Tropical Interpretive Center, located at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, is open Tuesday–Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

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      A Brief History of the Fleur-de-lis in Art

      The fleur-de-lis, a familiar symbol with varied meanings and a rather obscure origin.

      If you read the labels of objects in museums bearing the fleur-de-lis (in French, fleur de lys, pronounced with the final “s”), you might notice that they were all made in France before the French Revolution of 1789. 

      What’s less apparent is that the fleur-de-lis marks objects that bear witness to a dramatic history of monarchy, democracy, and war: they speak to the inherent power of trappings commissioned for and by France’s pre-revolutionary kings.

      Adopted as a royal emblem in France by the 1100s, the fleur-de-lis can be traced to early Frankish monarchs including Clovis I, who converted to Christianity in 496, and the renowned Charlemagne. 

      A French word, fleur-de-lis translates literally to “lily flower.” This is appropriate given the association of lilies with purity (and the Virgin Mary) and given that France has long been known as the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.” In truth, the stylized flower most closely resembles a yellow iris. 

      As a heraldic symbol used in the arms of the French monarchy, the fleur-de-lis often appears in yellow or gold tones and set on a blue shield. 

      Given its intimate royal associations, the fleur-de-lis invoked the ire of revolutionaries even before the fall of the monarchy in 1792. In addition to toppling royal statues, vandals chipped away at crowns and fleurs-de-lis adorning the façades of buildings.

      Full blog post on the Getty Iris here.


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