The artist behind a Koreatown school mural that came under fire for what critics called similarities to a Japanese imperial battle flag has agreed to modify the artwork, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Wednesday.
The mural at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, built on the site of the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, became a flashpoint of debate last year when criticism arose from a group of Korean activists. They claimed the rays in the background of the mural were reminiscent of the Japanese battle flag, invoking memories of atrocities committed before and during World War II.
Artist Beau Stanton denied any link between the mural — which is actually of actress Ava Gardner — and the Japanese flag, noting key differences such as the number of rays and their size and color.
At one point, LAUSD officials said they would paint over the mural, but that sparked backlash from some community members. Artist Shepard Fairey said if Stanton’s mural was removed he would insist on the removal of his own artwork at the campus depicting Robert Kennedy.
In a statement released Wednesday, Stanton said he has met with a “diverse cross section of stakeholders” over the past few months.
“These interactions have allowed me to synthesize a solution that aims to rise above the original binary conversation of `keep or remove the mural’ in order to build upon the original work and create something that speaks to the past, present and future of the RFK campus,” Stanton said.
“My proposal involves creating a transformative work utilizing the original mural as abase for layering and weaving additional imagery into the original image much like an urban wall with many historic layers,” he said. “Parts of the original will remain visible while focusing on themes related to the important conversation that the original work had initiated.”
There was no immediate word on when the modification would occur.
Roberto A. Martinez, LAUSD’s Local District Central superintendent, said he appreciated the input of everyone who took part in the discussions about the mural.
“This exercise allowed all participants to express their opinions on polarized ideas and listen to all perspectives,” he said. “It was a great learning experience for us all.”