Posts Tagged ‘Art Outdoors’

Outdoor Art: Murals and Trash Cans

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Mural by Irwin and Rittermann

Mural by Irwin and Rittermann

Irwin and Rittermann Mural

Irwin and Rittermann Mural

I try to keep up with the Murals in La Jolla but the last one popped up several months ago and I went in search of it.

Searching is not as much fun as discovering outdoor art unexpectedly.  Outdoor art often is  a destination, like monuments and murals.

The La Jolla murals (now twelve) have been up awhile and each one is remarkable but not all provide a sense of wonder as in “wow!”

Robert Irwin presented an installation in London and Philipp Scholz Rittermann photographed it. The result is a relatively new mural in La Jolla. It’s a visually challenging play of objects and perspective, mixing real elements, i.e. palm trees, cars, and streetlight, with the stretched vinyl reproduction of the photograph. It’s hard to walk by without trying to figure it out.  That sets it apart from some of the murals which require only a quick glance to sense the artists’ subject. But like most, it is impossible to photograph without the environmental elements—hence, outdoor art.

On a smaller scale are this car seat and trash can on the waterfront in Moro Bay.  We definitely just tripped upon this art on a walk around the small bay.  Both pieces are fun.

Car Seat

Car Seat

The car seat looks real from a short distance and seems to be abandoned junk that didn’t make it to the landfill. And it is impossible to look at without seeing the boats and wharf. But when you get up close, you can see a plaque in memory of a friend and we can read a little history into the torn car seat and the tools. No doubt it was placed here for a reason. We don’t need to know the reason or the person. It is a tribute.

Trash Can

Trash Can

The interesting trash can is obviously a way to spruce up an ugly container for, well, trash. It’s a mosaic with a waterfront theme–a surprise. Definitely site specific, definitely part of the setting, a human comment on the harbor.

Trash and art. That about says it all.


The Surfing Madonna

Monday, November 18th, 2013
The Surfing Madonna

The Surfing Madonna

She’s back!

First location The Surfing Madonna

First location The Surfing Madonna

When Mark Patterson first bolted his 10 x 10 foot mosaic, The Surfing Madonna, to the support arch of the railroad track in Encinitas, he did it quickly wearing a hard hat and disguised as a construction worker (he had help from other “workers”). But, in addition to being a religious subject on public property, it was, broadly speaking, graffiti. No one knew the artist. No one gave him permission. We loved it. But it couldn’t stay.  That was in 2011. It resided on another wall for awhile but it wasn’t very visible.

Now it is on a private wall, hence legal, and we are grateful to be able to see her again as we drive down Encinitas Boulevard.

I really liked the first location better, thought, because it was approachable. I walked up to the mosaic and almost put my nose on it. The tiles are beautiful. The silver and gold and the blue have deep color and shine even in the shadows. People even brought flowers to that first location. It was a fun “happening.” And mysterious because Mark Patterson didn’t admit to creating it for some weeks.

Now it is official, outdoor art. Still colorful. Still with an important message, “Save The Ocean.” But it’s rather aloof now, up from the sidewalk. It is still visible from a car as you drive by and you can walk along a sidewalk to get in front of it. The wall of the Leucadia Pizzeria is much better with art on it.

The graffiti artist Bansky just finished a three week blitz in New York. The fun of that, in addition to the art itself, was that no one knew ahead of time on which wall or truck door his spray paint might land. That element of art-on-the-fly is what The Surfing Madonna had.

She’s more secure now. I hope she stays for a long time. Considering all she’s been through, she still sparkles.




Gajin Fujita and Fred Tomaselli: Murals in La Jolla

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013
Fujita's Tail Whip

Fujita’s Tail Whip

Tomaselli's Learning to Fly(for the Zeros)

Tomaselli’s Learning to Fly(for the Zeros)

There are two recent additions to the murals in the village of La Jolla.  Gajin Fujita’s Tail Whip and Fred Tomaselli’s Learning to Fly (for the Zeros). And they are widely different and both sort of alarming at first glance.

Fujita’s is on a wall on Fay Street which used to have Anna Gallaccio’s electron microscope picture of a sand grain Surf’s Up on it.  The last time I saw Surf’s Up it did look a little faded but I really have no idea why it’s been replaced. The official webpage for the murals offers no explanation and in fact Gallaccio’s name is gone from that site.  I thought that was odd.

Fujita’s piece is on a black background and looks very “urban graffitti.” There is a dragon swooshing through it, although from a distance it’s hard to pick out. A passerby said it was very controversial but I think anytime you put something on a wall it’s controversial. This, more than the other murals, requires a certain suspension of OMG IT’S GRAFFITI.  It is not the only mural in La Jolla that causes instant opinions.  Thankfully.  We hardly need art that nobody notices.

Detail, Tail Whip

Detail, Tail Whip

Fred Tomaselli’s piece is very noticeable. It’s at the intersection of the major road into La Jolla, Torrey Pines Road,  and the major shopping street, Girard. I was in heavy traffic slowing to the intersection and glanced up and whoa, there it was. This naked guy falling through space. Tomaselli’s explanation of the piece involves considering the wall as a stage and his nod towards the “punk scene” of his earlier time in L.A. (see the writeup in The La Jolla Light). But that is not the instant impression.  It reminded one of my friends of 9/11.  And at the intersection, in traffic, it is a little scary.  Up close, butterflies and insects can be seen in the black space and the body is filled with internal organs.

Detail, Learning to Fly

Detail, Learning to Fly

So, what does it all mean?  Go figure. I think both pieces are great murals because each gets an instant gut reaction from the viewer. That’s a lot better than nobody noticing. A large wall and seconds to make a point—the challenge of murals.

Murals of La Jolla-Robert Ginder

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013


Robert Ginder's "House"

Detail, Robert Ginder's "House"

Robert Ginder’s House is the seventh mural to find a home on an empty wall in La Jolla, California.

And it is the most accessible. It’s on the wall of a former art gallery right on Prospect in La Jolla. And it is between two buildings that you can walk through. And no cars can park in front of it.  So it was easy to get up close.

The original painting is oil on wood and uses 22-karat gold leaf in addition to the oils. The details show up very well on this enlargement. The reflections in the windows and the shadows on the “stucco” make this very realistic and a good reason to walk up and peer at it.  If it wasn’t printed on a large piece of vinyl and attached to a large wall it would be easy to miss as a painting. There are a lot of houses in San Diego that look like this. Unfortunately, when I was there in mid-morning not one passerby looked up at it.  That might be the case with all of the Murals of La Jolla. Maybe they only get, at best, a passing glance. But this one is so easy to examine and appreciate the details. If you can find a place to park, be sure to walk up close to this.


I’ve blogged about the first six in previous posts. They represent a wide variety of artistic viewpoints, from clean design such as   Kim MacConnel’s tall ribbons of color, Girl From Ipanema and Roy McMakin’s ceramic tiles, Favorite Colors.

Anya Gallaccio’s electron microscope photo of a sand grain, Surf’s Up is getting hard to see. It seems to be fading or maybe it’s just hard to get a handle on what it is. Close up, the unusual shapes are more interesting than the whole.

Ryan McGinness’s  53 Women causes a lot of comments. I always hear one or two similar to “Holy Cow.”

John Baldessari’s odd pairing, Brain Cloud with SeaScape and Palm Tree is not easy to see. You have to look way up from the sidewalk by the cove on a wall facing another high wall.


But Ann Hamilton’s at sea is easy to see on the CitiBank wall which is directly opposite 53 Women and it is an image we can recognize.


Donal Hord’s “Morning”

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Donal Hord's Morning

"Morning" showing fangs and corn on base

Donal Hord lived in San Diego most of his life and his large outdoor sculptures are placed in very well known locations.

I first saw a Donal Hord sculpture in the late 1950’s when I was a student at San Diego State College (now San Diego State University). It is one of his works which he created especially for public places when he worked for the Works Progress Administration, WPA, in the late 1930’s. It is the seated figure of an Aztec warrior and it used to be in the main quad of the college, in front of the library and bell tower. Since the school’s football team is the Aztecs, that made sense. I hadn’t seen any other Hord pieces at that time. Aztec has been in several different locations at SDSU since then.

I found Morning in the Embarcadero Maria Park at Seaport Village the other morning. Morning is a good time to see it because the six foot figure is made from black granite and it is hard to photograph it in glaring sun. It’s a beautiful, muscular man, waking in the morning. The man sits on a base of symbols, the sun and moon, fangs and corn. The fangs are an Aztec symbol of man’s birth from the earth and corn is both a Mexican and American Indian symbol for the basic source of life giving food.

Donal Hord's "Morning"

It’s hard to get a picture of the whole sculpture because of the trees and water and buildings directly behind it. But the close-ups show the detail of the body and the wonderful power of the curving muscles.

Hord carved the piece between 1951 and 1956. He kept Morning in his own home. He died in 1966. The sculpture was not acquired by the Port of San Diego until 1983.

Donal Hord's "Morning"

Cabrillo’s San Salvador, Replica in Progress

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Building San Salvador, July 2011

Building San Salvador December 2011

Artist's model of San Salvador

Building the replica of Juan Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador, continues.


It was difficult to spot the construction from the highway  in July, 2011, since it wasn’t very imposing and was hidden beneath the trees at San Diego’s Spanish Landing. But as more and more crafted timbers are added, it pops out.

This replica will be a sea-going ship, not a model. It will join the Star of India, the Californian, and the Rose (aka HMS Surprise), in San Diego’s Maritime Museum’s fleet of sailing ships. It is a three masted galleon, scholar’s best guess about the kind of ship Cabrillo sailed. It’s a guess because there are no written records of the construction plans. It was built under Cabrillo’s direction in Guatemala. However, there are plans for this replica which are displayed at the Spanish Landing site.

Construction San Salvador April 2012

More frames are in place and we can see the ship emerging.  Notice the tiny potted tree on top.

April 2012 Construction of San Salvador

Cabrillo, with three ships, sailed to chart the coast of California and it’s riches for Spain. San Salvador was the largest–100 feet long– of the three. They sailed north from Guatemala in 1542 up the coast of Mexico and into what is now the port of San Diego.  They then sailed farther north to the Channel Islands where, unfortunately,  Cabrillo died of an injury on the island the Spaniards called Isla de la Posesion. The ships sailed farther north without him, maybe as far as Oregon. No log books from his voyage exist. Summary accounts were written after the crews returned to Mexico.

Cabrillo is a mystery man.  It’s unclear why he even added the name Cabrillo to his signature Juan Rodriquez. It’s unclear what kind of ship he had built for his voyage up the California coast. It’s unclear how he died. It’s unclear where he was buried.

But he looms large today in San Diego. The Cabrillo National Monument is busy all year long. Fortunately, both the displays at Spanish Landing and Cabrillo National Monument acknowledge the Kumeyaay Indians who lived here long before the Spanish claimed the land.

A blacksmith works at the construction site to make some of the metal pieces needed for construction. A very astute somebody put Goya’s The Forge on the sign in front of the area where he works.

Goya's The Forge

No credit is given to Goya, however. And no one on duty knew the picture was by a famous Spaniard.

A great touch, though.

San Savador's Blacksmith

I did a post in July 14, 2011, and another one January 6, 2012, on the replica.  Check there for earlier photos. Also, there is a real-time web cam in place now at Spanish Landing.

Take a look.

More from Ricardo Breceda

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Ricardo Breceda's Grasshopper

If the twenty-seven sculptures on the private lands of Galleta Meadows in Borrego Springs were not enough for you, Ricardo Breceda has added a grasshopper and a scorpion.  These two join a giant sloth, camels, saber tooth cat, gold miner, farm workers, a dragon, and various prehistoric creatures in the sand surrounding the small town of Borrego Springs.  (See my two previous posts.)

They are interesting. But the project seems now over the top. There is no glue holding the variety together except maybe the “now I think I’ll make this” philosophy of the artist. Not that children and adults don’t seek out the sculptures or enjoy walking across sand to see the giant creations up close.  But this is a town which fought the erecting of the towers for electricity transport, the Sunrise Power Link,  and it is home to Anza-Borrego State Park which preserves the natural beauty of the desert. And spring brings the colors of wild flowers.

There is nothing natural in metal sculpture–not a problem in itself. Public art exists all over the world.  If you have land to put up large welded metal pieces and a creative impulse to populate the desert with the good, the bad, and the ugly to silhouette the skyline, no one will stop you.  But the “more is more” attitude goes against the subtle beauty of the desert.  I can’t find a good answer to the question, “Why?”

Of all the creatures from horses to scorpions, I found the saguaro cactus the least admirable. So we have a dragon which never existed, a World War II jeep to remind us of destruction, and a cactus which does not grow in this desert.

Ricardo Breceda's Scorpion

Isn’t that enough?


Murals of La Jolla, #5, Ryan McGinness

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Detail, 53 Women by McGinness

The fifth mural in the La Jolla Murals series is easy to see and find.  It covers the horizontal span of a wall facing a parking lot and can be seen from Herschel Avenue.  Actually, unlike a couple of previous murals, it’s hard to miss.

It is a digital print on Sintra panels stretched on aluminum frames. It’s black with geometric figures in vivid colors. And it is six feet, 8 inches high and 40 feet 7 inches long. It’s called 53 Women.

Ryan McGinness explains that he works to “iconify the underlying visually logical geometries inherent in my figure drawings . . .and capture the purely aesthetic experience of graceful curves and sensual forms inherent in my models.” Okay. We can see that.  On his web page he has a book shelf with books he has written.  One is Flatness is God. Okay. We can see that, too.

McGinness also says, “These drawings are my version of what is sexy.” Okay.  Fifty-three nudes, bright, iconic, stretched over 40 feet. I guess it is.

I talked to a fellow across the street from the mural. He said reactions are mixed to the mural. And a couple of comments from passersby were negative. Put something sexy on a long wall and that figures.

The four previous murals are non-confrontational.  Baldessarri’s is hard to see, and it’s a plam tree and brain cloud. Anya Gallaccio’s is an electron microscope image of a grain of sand. Kim MacConnel’s and Roy MacMakins’ are pure color designs. This one is definitely an “in your face” mural.  It reminds me of stencil street art by such artists as Blek Le Rat and Banksy. Clear cut images in unexpected places.

53 Women, Ryan McGinness

Makes you wake up.



Murals of La Jolla, #4, John Baldessari

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Mural, Brain Cloud by John Baldessari

A huge mural, 36 feet by 40 feet, is displayed on an ocean view wall in La Jolla.  It is the fourth mural in a series, The Murals of La Jolla. By John Baldessari, it is titled either Cloud? or Brain Cloud, I’m not sure.  Various sources list it differently.

Sarah Thornton calls John Baldessari the “gregarious guru of Southern California art scene (Seven Days in the Art World, 2009).  He is also internationally famous.  And “conceptual.”  And puts disparate images together.  A brain, a palm tree, the ocean, for instance.  The La Jolla Light offers this quote from Baldessari by way of explaining the mural:  “I like banal images and I can’t think of anything more banal than a palm tree and an ocean.”

The images may be banal but the mural rises above them.  Maybe.  It is an odd juxtaposition of brains and palm. Kind of funky. Problem is, it’s a magnificently large mural and almost impossible to see.  You can see the upper part of it, the brain/cloud and some of the palm tree from the street below, but the dark blue of the ocean on the mural and the tall trunk of the palm tree are hidden by the buildings and other palm trees.  Maybe that’s the “conceptual” part.  You can hear the seals and smell the pelicans, though.  No doubt about being by the sea.  And the sea is never banal.

Neither are the brains behind the Murals of La Jolla.  They give us the most interesting walls.

This mural is actually printed on vinyl and stretched on an aluminum frame fixed to the side of the building.  The best view of it is on the web page of the company which installed it, CNP Signs & Graphics.

Do Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star” at UCSD

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Do Ho Suh's "Fallen Star"

Cranes and a bunch of people recently hoisted Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star onto the top of the Jacob Engineering Building at UCSD.

Fallen Star is a house, soon to include a garden, perched seven stories high on an already imposing building of glass and cement.  It seems small way up there but it is visible from far away.  You can spot it from across the canyon and from the Geisel Library.  Up close, there are still signs of the construction which got it up there and from underneath the bottom of the house looks unfinished. It is not clear from the project sign exactly where the garden will be and a few people on the ground ask if they could go inside the house.  There is more to come.

Like almost all of the art on the campus, it has a “what the hell is that” aura about it.  That someone thought it up, someone paid for it, and someone figured out how to install it certainly gives it magnitude.

Oz instantly comes to mind.  And like Oz, Fallen Star is about “home and displacement,” according to the Stuart Collection’s web page.  We don’t actually need a scholarly meaning for it.

It fell after quite a trip! And is fun.