- Santa Monica, CA
- Site Type:
- Murals, Art Works
- New Deal Agencies:
- Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), Arts Programs
- Fred Bessinger, Henry Hibbard, Stanton Macdonald-Wright
- Quality of Information:
- Very Good
- Site Survival:
An enormous mural cycle by Stanton Macdonald-Wright, entitled “Invention and Imagination,” hangs in the Santa Monica Public Library. It consists of 30 panels painted on plywood and covers a total of 2,000 square feet. The mural cycle was created under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) in 1934 and completed in 1935.
In the original installation in the old Santa Monica Public Library at 503 Santa Monica Boulevard, the murals covered all the wall space in the reading room. When that library was torn down in 1965, the mural panels were put in storage at the Smithsonian Institution, where they remained for 40 years. In 2006, they were refurbished and re-installed in the new Santa Monica Public Library.
Unfortunately, the panels were hung willy-nilly around bookcases, reading areas and classrooms, and are not in the original order. There is only one information panel, which does not describe any of them in detail or indicate the order Macdonald-Wright had in mind. As is evident in the attached gallery, the murals are hard to photograph clearly, given their positions, hanging light fixtures and outside glare. (We are not sure that we even found all the murals!)
Nevertheless, the cycle as a whole is impressive in its vast sweep and ambition.
According to the artist’s statement: “The subject matter may be described as depicting the two streams of human development: one technical, the other imaginative. They coalesce and fuse in what perhaps holds the greatest potentialities for art expression invented by man the medium of the moving picture. Those who have been in a moving picture stage and laboratory during the filming of a picture know what a great role the inventions along the lines of precision machinery, chemistry, and electricity, play in the process.”
Macdonald-Wright later became head of the Federal Art Project of the WPA for Southern California.
The New York Times: "CWA PROJECT GIVES 2,500 ARTISTS WORK," February 23, 1934 (pg. 21)
Santa Monica Public Library website
Originally posted in the New Deal Art Registry
Site originally submitted by Evan Kalish & Richard Walker on July 15, 2009.
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