Friday, March 21, 2008

Scritti Politi

The Militant went on a secret mission to Downtown Los Angeles on Friday and ended up walking down Grand Avenue with one of his favorite female operatives who has previously accompanied him on walks through other parts of town. Before the Militant hopped on his Red Line ride back to the compound, he stopped by the Los Angeles Central Library (The Militant has omitted the name of a certain former mayor intentionally) just before it closed for the day.

He discovered the little 1st-floor hallway nooks that host mini galleries is currently displaying artworks from legendary Angeleno artist Leo Politi.

The Italian American and California native artist's works, which are primarily watercolor paintings portraying depictions of middle-20th centruty Angeleno life in locales such as Bunker Hill, are on display at the library's gallery and coincides with Politi's 100th birth annivarsary this year.

The Bunker Hill paintings on display are rare "outtakes" from his illustrated books on the famed Downtown neighborhood. Colorful and lively, many of them seemingly depic the inclined green space that ran above the 3rd Street tunnel as the virtual center of the universe, with pedestrians, automobiles, trolleys and the Angels Flight funicular all going about their business. His paintings, which are largely composed of lively contrasting shades of green, orange and various earth tones show a slice of Los Angeles life so vividly, one would expect an animated scene play out in front of their eyes. Indeed, some of the paintings resemble a cross between classic Walt Disney animated cels and an Al Hirschfeld illustration, a stark contrast from the more utilitarian look of the senior living condominium that replaces that exact same scene today.

Most of all, his paintings reflected the community and diversity that was present even back then, as the Bunker Hill paintings feature the residences of his former neighbors, accompanied by an anecdote and a character description of some of the residents.

Politi's, who died in 1996, was also famous for painting scenes from Olvera Street, Angelino Heights and Watts, as he illustrated the towering work of his old pal, Simon Rodia.

The Los Angeles Central Library's Bunker Hill by Leo Politi exhibit lasts until June 14. It's free, of course. Politi's 100th birthday would have been on Novbember 3 of this year and his official website, run by members of his family, describes several other events scheduled throughout the year to commemorate his centennial.


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fatpinkchicken said...

The free exhibits at the Central Library are always really good. Did you check out the Julius Shulman exhibit? Awesome.

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Unknown said...

I enjoyed that exhibit a lot. I think I'll go check it out again. :)
Also enjoyed Julius Shulman's and wrote on that memory book they had.

My first intro to Leo Politi was as an 11 year old when I checked out his book of Bunker Hill water paintings (was it called Reminiscences of a Bygone Era?). I became fascinated, hell, a little obsessed with Bunker Hill, Angels Flight and its past. Then I rode Angels Flight on the weekend it reopened. Pity it's been out of service again this long...

I got to see that book again, my friend's mother has a copy. I want to get my own copy, but when searching online found that I could find used copies for more than $100! Expensive book...really should be republished.

PS - Nice band reference there in the title. :) Love that post-punk/new wave sound.