American Tropical Museum of Art

This is a cultural museum and permanent shelter structure, observation platform and interpretive center, encompassing the allegorical mural “Tropical America” by David Alfaro Siqueiros, a radical expelled from Mexico in the 1930s. Offensive to the conservative society doyennes of the time, the mural, depicting the struggle of native peoples against imperialism, was painted over. As the whitewash peeled away, the mural was rediscovered in the 1960s as the Chicano movement gained momentum, but a lack of funds prevented its full restoration, which is now finally underway. The mural is located in the historic heart of Los Angeles, Olvera Street, along a second-story exterior wall. The aim of Brooks + Scarpa’s canopy design is to announce the mural’s existence to the public and create a new focal point near the vibrant shopping streets of the original Pueblo of Los Angeles, and adjacent to important 20th century icons, Union Station and City Hall. Brooks + Scarpa collaborated with experienced exhibit designers IQ Magic on this project. A work of art that so shocked and angered people when it was unveiled in L.A. 80-years ago that it was nearly white washed out of existence is about to go on display again and get the star treatment. In 1932, famed Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros painted “America Tropical,” an enormous mural above the stores and crowds of Olvera Street. The civic leaders who commissioned the 80-foot long piece thought they were going to get a tourist-friendly work of art celebrating the romance and beauty of Latin America. Think pretty senoritas and handsome caballeros. What they got instead was a politically-charged mural depicting an Indian tied to a cross with an eagle looming above him. You didn’t have to be an art major to recognize the message: Siqueiros, a proud militant lefitst, was blasting what he felt was the exploitation of Latin America by Yankee imperialism. The mural was so controversial that it was painted over soon after it was unveiled and was nearly forgotten for decades. In recent years, experts from the Getty Conervation Institutehave been working to painstakingly clean the mural and arrest its further decay.

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