Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo

Background Information

1984, John Wehrle. 207' x 24-1/2(west), 19-1/2"(east). 101 Freeway.
Typical of Wehrle's juxtaposition of unusual figures, objects and scenery, is his large mural for the Olympics on the north retaining wall between Spring Street and Broadway. Relating to Los Angeles as both a center of high technology and the home of the 1984 summer Olympics, it depicts fragments of classical Greek buildings and statuary floating in space. Integral to the surrealistic fantasy is a sculptural piece shaped like a finger, pointing to an astronaut on Jupiter's left. It recalls Michelangelo's "Creation."

The design is a development of an unexecuted mural Wehrle called the "Ruins of Babel." It depicted a mythical tower, designed to reach the heavens, actually in the heavens. Continuing its same premise--"the visual absurdity of metaphor made concrete"--Wehrle adapted the work to the Olympics by replacing the original Roman architecture with remnants of a Greek temple and adding the Olympic motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) to the architectural pieces.

The title responds to the Olympics. Galileo was the first person to use a telescope to view Jupiter, who was the Roman counterpart of Zeus and the father of both the Olympics and the god Apollo.

This may have been the first Los Angeles mural to use Keim paint. Developed in Germany nearly a century ago, this special silicate paint binds directly with the cement, giving the mural as long a life as the wall itself.

Text provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, April 1999.

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