September 2000 Volume 21 Number 3

Articles You May Have Missed

"Piazzoni Murals Lose Round", by Stephanie Cash, in Art in America, February 1999, No. 2, p. 31.

In the face of significant opposition from preservation groups, which include the city Landmarks Preservation Board, the Secretary of Interior "Standards for Rehabilitation" guidelines, The National Park Service, AIC, the Getty Institute, the Archives of American Art, and the State of California Office of Historic Preservation, as well as conservation reports which "warn against possible severe damage should they be removed", plans forge ahead to remove Gottardo Piazzoni's murals from the old main library of San Francisco. With a move that shocked many art historians, preservationists and concerned citizens, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted, six to one, on Dec. 10 to approve the Asian Art Museum's plan to remove the murals from their current location.

The building where the murals are housed is the city' s old main library and the murals, which were painted for the site in the 1930's, depict surrounding scenery. When the library relocated in 1994, a bond issue was passed by the city of San Francisco, to fund the remodeling of the site so as to be able to house the Asian Art Museum. The bond however, stipulated that "both the landmarked building's exterior and character and its "exceptionally significant interior spaces ", would be preserved.

The renovation which is designed by Architect Gae Aulenti calls for the removal of the murals and significant alterations to the two main reading rooms. Though the initial argument made by Emily Sano, Director of the Asian Art Museum, for the removal of the murals was that more wall space was needed, the final plan shows windows in the space where the murals currently hang.

"The Revival of Colored Cotton", by JamesVreeland, in Scientific American, April 1999, Vol. 280, No. 4, pp. 112 -118.

An article on colored cotton giving highlights of an interesting history and mentioning several of the reasons why it fell out of importance and how it is making a comeback.

Traced as far back as 5,000 years ago evidence of colored cotton's existence has been found in Central America, the Caribbean and in western South America. Archaeological evidence regarding cotton domestication in these regions is said to be extensive and includes cotton fibers from Oaxaca, Mexico and Northern Peru. Fibers from Africa and Asia date from about 2200 B.C. and in the Indus Valley from around 2250 B.C. In the U.S., colored cotton appears to have come from the EasternMediterraneann region and Asia during the colonial period. But other than in a few scattered pockets, its cultivation did not take off. In the 1700's the invention of the cotton gin, English spinning frame, and inexpensive chemical dyes made the use of colored almost obsolete.

Not until the 1990's did colored cotton begin to make a comeback. Cotton farmers use approximately 23 percent of the world's insecticides and 10 percent of the world's pesticides, and the bleaching and dyeing of cotton produces byproducts which give rise to other significant environmental and health concerns. In recent years however, some large U.S. Companies began to market items made from colored cotton as an environmentally friendly alternative.

"Mysteries of the Oriental Rug", in Consumer Reports, August 1999, Vol. 64, No.8, pp.12-17.

Consumer Reports gives some useful information on Oriental rugs which a buyer (or non-textile conservator) might be interested in. The article includes basic definitions and characteristics associated with the more commonly found oriental rugs and includes topics such as "Hand versus Machine" made rugs, "Common Designs" and materials. A separate,small section on "How to Spot a Problem Rug" points out commonly found problems with oriental rugs that may have been tampered with for purpose of sale. The topics include: how to tell if a rug has been chemically washed; synthetic versus silk; how to spot dry rot, how to tell if fringe has been painted; tea washes; and applied fringe.

"Stuck on Glues", in Consumer Reports, Aug. 1999, Vol. 64, pp.30-31.

The guide talks about the four most common types of household glues (plastic cements, emulsion wood glues, polymerizing glues, and cyanoacrylates) and gives very basic definitions for them and their uses. The glues are rated for strength, water resistance, gap filling properties, setting time, color and price. It also includes what each type is best used for, how they go on, clean up, and special precautions during use.

"Distinctive L.A. Art Legacy Under Siege", by Lorenza Munoz, in Los Angeles Times, July 23, 1999.

The night of his brother's stabbing will forever burn in the mind of artist Willie Herron. He wanted the world to remember too--to have the image of his 15-year-old brother, John, stabbed by gang members, permanently inscribed on the wall of the alley behind his family's home. So on that night in June 1972, after taking his brother to the hospital and saying a quick prayer, he painted a mural, guided by friends holding flashlights, on a building owned by his uncle.

"The Wall That Cracked Open" became one of Herron's most noted murals recognized immediately by scholars, art critics, historians and Chicano rights activists as a transcendent piece that spoke to the physical and psychic violence surrounding many disenfranchised youth. It became a crucial piece of Los Angeles' cultural history.

John survived the stabbing, but Willie Herron's mural has nearly disappeared. Sometime in recent months, without the artist's knowledge, the mural was painted over in a flat, gray color. Herron believes that Los Angeles County's zero-tolerance anti-graffiti program is responsible for the damage. County officials deny Herron's accusation. However, neighbors, who say they witnessed the destruction, have pointed to county contractors, and Supervisor Gloria Molina, is holding the graffiti abatement department responsible.

Herron's homage to his brother is just one of a long list of murals that have been damaged or destroyed over the last five years, first by taggers, then either by contractors hired by the county, CalTrans workers or property owners. Among the victims: portions of Herron's 1984 mural "Las Luchas del Mundo" on the Hollywood Freeway; the middle column of Judy Baca's 1984 "Hitting the Wall" on the Harbor Freeway; and the bottom third of Frank Romero's "Going to the Olympics" on the Hollywood Freeway. Kent Twitchell's "Freeway Lady" in Echo Park was painted over in 1986 by an outdoor advertising company but is being restored.

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