Calle De La Eternidad, 1993
By Johanna Poethig
BBF Broadway Building
351 South Broadway (at 4th St.)
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Johanna Poethig was raised in the Philippines through high school and has lived in Chicago, san Francisco and Oakland since coming to the United States. she received her BFA at the UC Santa Cruz and her MFA at Mills College (in Oakland, CA). Poethig’s public art works intervene in the urban landscape, in neighborhoods, on freeways, in parks, hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, cultural centers, advertising venues and public buildings.
ABOUT THE MURAL
“The architecture of the building really affected me because it’s so high off the ground and so much of the background is all those buildings reaching to the sky. Also, the whole context of being in Broadway, in a very Latino neighborhood, is so important to me. I started to look for symbols and artifacts from pre-Columbian America. The arms that are reaching to sky based on Peruvian gold work. The Aztec Calendar contains text by Octavio Paz about time and place. It’s trying to bring poetry to the idea of being at home and in exile at the same time. In the middle of a commercial LA landscape you have something that is talking about connecting us culturally and historically to our past and present.”
The building that the mural was on was demolished for extensive renovations. However, the SPARC Mural Rescue Program preserved a digital rendering of the mural. The digital file is currently in the SPARC archives, awaiting a suitable wall to re-inhabit.
Johanna, a prolific visual, public and performance artist who has produced numerous public art projects, was at SPARC during the 2016 Summer to digitally restore Calle de la Eternidad—a mural that, she says, has always been magical to her. In many ways, Eternidad is site-specific. The surrounding architecture of the site, she recalls, seemed to be reaching towards the sky. This led Johanna to feature the hands, which gesture upwards, as the central image. The hands are modeled after pre-Columbian symbols that Johanna says “represent the history and the ancestry of people in this area and California”—symbols that are both “ceremonial and gestural.”
For over 25 years, Johanna has told the stories and preserved the histories of the cities and neighborhoods in which her work is placed. And to be back at SPARC, who has sponsored three of her murals (including Eternidad), “feels very, very good,” she says. “Having worked on public art projects with a lot of organizations, SPARC is an incredibly powerful organization. And its contribution to the mural movement, to muralism, and to L.A…. you can’t measure it.”
Although the building on which Johanna’s mural was located had been demolished for extensive renovations, Johanna is not filled with anger, but rather, gratitude. “You know, to be honest with you, I’m just really grateful that this is happening… I’m just seriously happy that this mural is going out and gonna continue to have a life on Broadway.” Fortunately, SPARC’s Mural Rescue Team took photographs of the original mural, and this summer, Johanna is working through the CityWide Mural Program (CWMP) to work on digital renderings of the mural, so that when the CWMP installs Calle de la Eternidad, it will appear just as it did when it was first painted. “The final artwork, once it’s completed and installed, will probably be slightly larger than the original and definitely just as visible,” Carlos Rogel assures.