Saturday, August 22, 2009

Inglewood History of Transportation Mural

Southern California Modernist artist Helen Lundeberg (1908-1999) designed the History of Transportation Mural in Inglewood in 1939 as a project of the Works Progress Administration. The mural is 8 feet high, 240 feet long, and is comprised of 60 mosaic panels mounted on a curved cast concrete wall.

The mural depicts the historic inhabitants of the Centinela Valley including Native Americans, Spanish Missionaries, and Anglo settlers. The mural shows forms of transportation including walking, ox-drawn carriages, steam trains, automobiles, and airplanes.

The History of Transportation Mural is made with petrachrome mosaic, a process designed by the WPA specifically for California's hot, sunny climate. Petrachrome mosaics were made with colored, crushed stones embedded in tinted concrete mortar. The WPA designed the petrachrome process to be labor intensive so that the projects would employ a large number of laborers and artisans. The Inglewood mural is one of the last remaining petrachrome artworks in the country.

Here is a detail depicting a boy on horseback waiving at two girls in an ox-drawn cart:
Spanish Missionaries on horseback in the background:

By the 1990s, the mural was severely damaged from weather, pollution, car collisions, and vandalism. The City of Inglewood and a variety of preservation groups raised $1 million in grants from the Getty, the California Heritage Fund, the California Cultural Historical Endowment, and other private donors for a major restoration and re-installation that began in 2001 and was completed in 2007.

The Inglewood transportation mural is appropriately located just a few miles East of LAX International Airport.

Here are some closer details from the mosaic. Some of the color areas are delineated with thin, inlaid brass outlines.

Here is an even closer view which shows the crushed stone embedded in the tinted mortar:

The History of Transportation Mural is located at the corner of Manchester Boulevard and Grevallia Avenue across the street from Inglewood High School just a few blocks away from Randy's Donuts. There is more information about the mural, the restoration effort, the petrachrome process and artist Helen Lundeberg available on the City of Inglewood's website.

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  1. I'm falling in love with all the murals in LA. After years of living on the East Coast and never having experienced these types of murals, they are definitely eye opening in their color, message, and artistic impressions.

    Great post!!

  2. Are you sure you chose the right profession? I can see the art historian in you shining through. I went to Coit tower the other day and wish I had had you there as a tour guide.