"The Evolution of Printing" and "The Evolution of Los Angeles"

Background Information

Tony Sheets, 1988. 45' x 65''. 213 S. Spring Street.
Each of the two concrete panels on the 1460 space Los Angeles Times garage simultaneously tells several stories. Facing Spring Street, "The Evolution of Printing" traces the evolution of publishing from the development of modern lettering during Roman times through the invention of movable type in China in the 9th century, to the first use of movable type in Europe by Gutenberg. This mural also depicts the physical and mechanical process of producing a newspaper from harvesting forests for the paper, through the printing by blanket and offset presses. Weaved into the production story is an illustrated narrative on how news evolves from photographing to writing, typesetting and selling it in a newspaper by a boy standing on a street corner. The Pulitzer Prize medallions, symbolizing high journalistic standards, embellish the left edge of "The Evolution of Printing".

Incorporated in the panel are the dates "1455," the year Gutenberg first used moveable type, "1884", the year Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the slug casting machine, the forerunner of the linotype, and "1919," the year when the first photo was published on the same day as the event (which was of a fire in Los Angeles).

On the Broadway side of the garage, "The Evolution of Los Angeles" depicts the changes in the city during its long history. Representing the initial human settlement is a Native-American family by a campfire with a man holding a controversial anatomically correct male rabbit on the top left of the panel.(1) Herman Cortez and the Spanish galleon is depicted on the opposite side of the mural. The arrival of the Pobladores (the original 44 settlers of Los Angeles), the foundation of the San Gabriel mission and covered wagons and trains bringing people from the east represent the successive waves of immigration that have continuously transformed the character of Los Angeles. The economic foundation of the city is symbolized by cattle, citrus groves, and oil. The bottom line portrays the contemporary Los Angeles downtown skyline as an emblem of the city's importance in technology, science, medicine, sports and entertainment, all energized by a multi-cultural landscape.

Punctuating these narratives are dates marking significant events in the history of Los Angeles:

Tony Sheets, who worked on the panel facing Spring Street for the Broadway-Spring Center garage, was referred to the Los Angeles Times by the Community Redevelopment Agency. After being awarded a $102,000 commission from the Times, Sheets discussed the themes and images for the two panels with Los Angeles Times Director Franklin Murphy. Sheets also reviewed drawings with him before finalizing the design in late 1987. The figures in the panels were carved inside-out and backwards in polystyrene foam which was then inserted into the contractor's forms to create the two 45' high by 60' long concrete sculptural walls.(2)

The garage is located on two historic sites. The B'nai B'rith Temple, the city's first synagogue, occupied the Broadway side of the plot between 1873 and 1896. This gothic styled structure was designed by the city's foremost architect of the time, Ezra F. Kysor, who also designed the Pico House, the Merced Theatre and St. Vibiana's Cathedral. After outgrowing the building, the congregation moved to a larger synagogue at 9th and Hope and in the late 1920s, it moved to its present home in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. During construction of the Los Angeles Times garage, two caps of the synagogue's pillars were unearthed. These limestone blocks, carved with Stars of David, are now on display at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple.(3)

The Los Angeles Theatre, located on the Spring Street side of the garages, was the site of the American premiere of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. On October 14, 1897, the Del Conte Italian Opera Company gave the first of three performances in Los Angeles before 532 patrons only 19 months after its world premier at the Teatro Regio in Turin.4


1 Interview with Tony Sheets by Michael Several, September 26, 1989.

2 Ibid.

3 "Builders Dig Up a Piece of L.A.'s Jewish History," by Robert W. Stewart, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1988, Metro Section, p. 1.

4 "Mimi Arrives," by Ann M. Lingg, Opera News, March 14, 1964, Vol. 26, No. 18, p. 12.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, October 1999.

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