Murals on the 101: Tribute

I spent two hours in traffic last night on the 101 at Union Station. I feel like I’ve spent too much of this life stopped somewhere around Union Station. Too many late-night hours staring blankly at the blood of the freeway as it trickles its way down one hill and up another. And where there were once great big murals spangled with graffiti there are now just concrete barriers. And it makes me sad. I would use these murals as markers; metrics by which to determine my progress: “Are we almost to Silver Lake? Oh look – it’s that mutant baby holding the basketball.

For those who didn’t grow up here, who’ve never been here, or who maybe are new in town I would like to share with you one of the greatest lost treasures of Los Angeles: the 101 Freeway Murals. Anybody who grew up in Southern California east of Hollywood has these images embedded in their memory. From my understanding they were a series of works commissioned by the city in the 80’s as part of a larger cultural project just prior to the 1984 Olympics. Sometime around 2004 most of these murals were taken down. However, I was able to find a really cool site which has preserved via photograph many of the 101 murals as well as others from the greater Los Angeles area. For those who already know what I’m talking about, let’s take a trip through memories of traffic jam’s past…

Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo by John Wehrle
1983. Hollywood Freeway (101), Spring St. Silicate on concrete, 24′ x 207′.
Courtesy of Public Art In LA

My sister and I would giggle at this one when we were children. Michelangelo’s David appears in the buff, wang and all. “Here comes the penis,” Iwould say, and it became a phrase which defined my twenties for much different reasons. Moving on…

Designate A Driver by Steve Rose
1992. Hollywood Freeway (101) at Alameda. Acrylic, 28′ x 45′.
Courtesy of Public Art In LA
Buckle Up by Steve Rose
1990. Hollywood Freeway (101) at Spring St. Acrylic, 25′ x 20′.
Courtesy of Public Art In LA

“Buckle Up” cop was epic. Just look at him, towering over the city like he was the safety God Himself. From my old show days, here’s a photo of our D.J. flaunting his disobedience…

Blasphemy of Buckle UpNot wise to taunt the Safety God, Richie! For he is an angry, ticket-wielding God.

Going to the Olympics by Frank Romero
1984. Hollywood Freeway (101) at Alameda. Acrylic, 22′ x 103′. A tribute to LA’s car culture.
Courtesy of Public Art In LA

And my favorite…

L.A. Freeway Kids
Artist/Designer – Glenna Boltuch. Assistants: Jesse Avila, Alan Boltuch, Jan Cook, Margaret Garcia, Mary Suarez, Eloy Torrez, John Valdez.
Courtesy of Public Art In LA

This one holds a special place in my heart. Not so much because I enjoy the presence of children, or their gleeful innocence, but because of this…

Epic Mutant Baby! If you’ll notice in the panoramic shot, this child trails behind the others. Forgotten, neglected, and underestimated. Mutant Baby would grow to become a devourer of souls, clutching entire worlds with the same kind of menace with which he holds that basketball. If I could get this kid printed on a t-shirt I would never take it off.


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