Siqueiros mural restoration targets 2010 completion
Every time I revisit the saga of the Siqueiros mural at Olvera Street, I always discover something new. This time, while reporting an update for my Culture Mix column on plans to once again exhibit the long-lost mural, I discovered that the famed Mexican artist had actually started work on a replacement for “America Tropical,” which had been whitewashed soon after completion in 1932.
Hollywood director Jesus Trevino had visited David Alfaro Siqueiros in Mexico for a documentary he did in 1971, inspired by the desire to restore the mural to public view. The director remembers Siqueiros saying: “Before you start spending all this time refurbishing, why don’t you just let me do a new one?” So the artist started “America Tropical 2,” working in his Cuernavaca studio where the mural panels could be ingeniously raised and lowered through the floor so he didn’t have to climb on scaffolding the old-fashioned way.
Trevino sent me a photo of the work-in-progress, taken by art historian Shifra Goldman, a Chicano art expert who had inspired his interest in the mural. The photo shows twin pyramids placed side by side, leaving room for the central image of the crucified Indian, the original’s incendiary icon. But the Indian was never added to the replacement mural because Siqueiros died before completing it.
Compared to the original, these pyramids look futuristic, framed by sleek, angular lines that suggest "Star Wars" or space travel. It’s a strikingly modern look that would have complemented the contemporary design proposed for the new viewing platform and interpretive center planned for historic Olvera Street.
-- Agustin Gurza
Top photo: The central image of the mural shows a crucified Indian peasant under an American eagle.
Credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Shortly after David Alfaro Siqueiros painted the mural on the wall of old Italian Hall, it was whitewashed.
Credit: 1934 Los Angeles Times file photo