The materials on this website may not be reproduced in print or any other media without written permission.

Contact Tom Kracauer with any comments, inquiries, or requests.

© 2019

Grace Glueck, Art Notes, The New York Times, July 9, 1972, pp. 16 D


The Art Squad Strikes Again

A big, flesh-colored billboard, advertising LA, the new Los Angeles weekly, had just been painted by Victor Henderson and Terry Schoonhoven, and suddenly the two were hacking at it with an axe. "It needed that," said Victor, appreciatively, as Terry smashed through the "L." "It's just the right artistic touch."

The billboard, commissioned by LA, lay flat on the rood of a loft building in the seaside artists' community of Venice, but will soon be erected over Hollywood's Sunset Strip. "They ordered it like that," explained Victor, who with Terry comprises a painting team called the Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad. "We told them we weren't into commercial things and would only do this if we could destroy the advertising message."

Usually, the Squad is up to more creative endeavors—painting huge murals on the outside walls of buildings. So far, it has done five: one at the Paris Biennale in 1971 and four in L.A. Not message murals, nor abstract eye-dazzlers, but somewhat surreal visions, painted in a clear photographic style that makes them instantly readable. The first one, created in 1969, covers an outside wall of Victor's studio in Venice; it mirros an actual street view that faces the wall.

"I got tired of showing my work in galleries with no response," say Victor, a tall fellow who wears his hair in a ponytail with a leather forehead band. "We thought of making art available with no conditions, economic of political; not to hustle people with sales. Also we had an idea that we'd excite them by graphically reshaping their ordinary environment, the city, ito extraordinary visions."

Word of the mural got around and soon after its completion Mike Hewitt, owner of a nightclub called "The Climax," commissioned the team to paint his entered building on La Cienega. They covered it with a modern version of the Siddhartha legend, out of Herman Hesse. It took a year, though their $300 weekly stipend ran out long before that. After "The Climax" came Venice again, and a mural on a building along Ocean Front Walk. Commissioned by Jerry Rosen, a lawyer, the painting showed Venice under a blanket of snow (unfortunately, it has now been obscured by a 3-story apartment building under construction next door. A petition to the L.A. city fathers, signed by 5,000 people, failed to save it).

The Squad's most apocalyptic vision occurs on the back of a building on Butler Street in West L.A., owned by ham heir Geordie Hormel. An earthquake image, called "The Isle of California," it was, eerily enough, begun only weeks before the real quake hit L.A. in 1971. The oeuvre, 60 feet high, depicts a section of freeway disastrously upheaved, surrounded by blue sky, mountains and the gentle waters of the Pacific.

Now that it's left its mark on L.A., the Squad would like to get back to the land by undertaking a kind of ultimate wall painting project, moving out across the county to do a series from L.A. to New York. "They'd essentially be visions of American history," explains Terry. "Maybe one image would be a long line of bulldozers in the shape of Conestoga wagons."


NEXT ARTICLE

""