A giant mural commemorating the first time women were allowed to run in an Olympic marathon — at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles — has been painted over, although it’s not known who is responsible for the vandalism.
The artwork was commissioned in 1984 and painted on the 110 Freeway near the 4th Street exit in downtown Los Angeles. It was covered over in March, during Women’s History Month,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
The mural is among a long list of L.A. artworks, including several other Olympic scenes, that have been whitewashed across the city in violation of federal and state laws. Like other artists, Judy Baca said she is considering legal action against the agency she thinks is responsible: the California Department of Transportation.
“A mural of that size is worth millions and millions of dollars,” said Brooke Oliver, Baca’s attorney. “It is reprehensible that Caltrans doesn’t recognize that it is a tremendously valuable and revered mural in a high-profile place in Los Angeles and doesn’t give it the respect that it deserves.”
But Caltrans insists it is not the culprit and says the agency is willing to work with Baca to restore the artwork, The Times reported.
The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), a group headed by Baca that promotes art in the community, noted earlier this month that the 30-foot-high, 100-foot-wide mural titled “Hitting the Wall” had been painted over. The group posted a photograph of the blank, light-gray wall that replaced the iconic mural, which featured a female runner breaking a finish-line rope tied to two wooden pillars and then busting through a concrete block wall.
Baca, one of Los Angeles’ most respected artists and a UCLA professor, uses traditional Mexican techniques in her murals. “Hitting the Wall” was covered in a glaze that made it appear as though light were emanating from the turquoise bricks the runner breaks through. Applying the glaze is a laborious process that took nine months to complete.
“Hitting the Wall” was one of at least 10 large freeway murals commissioned by the International Olympic Committee 35 years ago. Only a handful remain intact.
Baca was paid $15,000 for the piece, $3,000 of which went toward Caltrans-required barriers for the freeway, she said.
The artwork is copyrighted and registered with the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. In accordance with the Visual Artists Rights Act, a 1990 law that protects recognized works of public art from damage, destruction or defacement, Baca should have received a 90-day notice if her mural was to be removed. But neither the artist nor her staff received any such alert.
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