Community Voices CommVoicesB

Published on May 12th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

0

Deep In Echo Park, A Bohemian Nexus

By Lionel Rolfe

Long time Echo Park residents Anne Stein and Gary Leonard are planning to showcase the paintings of Anne’s father, Philip Stein, at their Take My Picture Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. They are doing so as the restored Siqueiros mural “American Tropical” is about to be unveiled in Olvera Street.

The timing is not just coincidence.

Anne Stein was born in Mexico City in the 1950s because her father had left Los Angeles on the GI bill to study art in San Miguel. He ended up working with the great Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros between 1948 and 1958 on most of his major murals. He then brought his family back to the New York area and except for an eight year sojourn in Spain, spent the rest of his life as an artist and activist in the east.

When Stein died at 90 in 2009, Anne and Gary rented a truck and drove the artwork from New York to Echo Park and then installed the paintings at Take My Picture gallery.

Siqueiros had been commissioned to paint three murals in Los Angeles. “American Tropical” at El Pueblo was whitewashed within a month of its completion in 1932. Mexican revolutionaries, or any revolutionaries, never found Los Angeles a friendly place.

At the beginning of the century, Ricardo Magon, a major architect of the 1921 Mexican Revolution, lived and did his work in Los Angeles. Like Siqueiros, Magon was punished–spending a year in an American prison–the result, primarily, of the enmity of the Los Angeles Times editor and publisher Gen. Otis, who was also a big landlord in Mexico and an avid supporter of the dictator Porfirio Diaz.

Otis ran Los Angeles like his personal fiefdom, and he hated Magon, just as he most surely would have hated Siqueiros.

In the 1980s Stein wrote Siqueiros: His Life and Works, still the major biography of Siqueiros.

Phil had done set design for the New York theaters, studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then he came to Los Angeles and went to Chouinard. Then as a Columbia studios set designer, he got involved in the great 1946 Hollywood strike, Vallen said. He spent several months in jail in Lincoln Heights for his efforts.

When he and his wife left Los Angeles and moved to Mexico City, Stein was a veteran of the Great Depression as well as World War II, where he had been a meteorologist. After the war, with the help of the GI bill, he pursued a career in the thing he had cared about the most–art.

Mark Vallen, a well-known artist and art historian with his own blog , said Stein had a very special relationship with Siqueiros.

“Stein went to work for Siqueiros for 10 years and that relationship grew and deepened. Siqueiros gave him the name Estano. Stein-Estano was at first one of several Siqueiros assistants, but he became the main assistant and got involved with several of his greatest murals in Mexico City during that time,” Vallen said.

Vallen said that Stein became “so closely aligned with Siqueiros” people hardly knew Stein was a significant artist in his own right, heavily influenced by the American jazz scene.

When Stein died in 2009, the New York Times noted his passing with a substantial article about “Phil Stein, Muralist Who Adorned Village Vanguard Club Dies At 90.”

The famed jazz club, which is still going, was run and founded by Stein’s sister, Lorraine Gordon and her husband, Max Gordon. For years, there were three large Stein murals on the club’s triangle of walls, two were removed because of water damage but the mural on the back wall remains. Stein loved hot jazz like Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, but was less excited by the cool jazz performed at the Vanguard.

“What sustained Stein, and enabled him “to go to hell and back,what sustained his art, was the thought that art could make the world a better place and that was the school of American realism,” Vallen said. For Stein, the great Mexican muralist was the inevitable mentor.

“Unfortunately fame eluded Stein because he was persistent in following realism when the abstract was dominating,” Vallen said, noting that Stein wasn’t going to go any where any way because this was the time of McCarthy, when the United States flirted heavily with fascism. “Maybe things will be different with the passing of time,” Vallen said.

Vallen said his own interest in Siqueiros began when his parents took him downtown and showed him where the mural in Olvera Street was.

This was in the 1950s, and Vallen was six or seven years old. He was fascinated by why it had been whitewashed. “There were enemies coming from all quarters,” he said. “Siqueiros’ politics were very clear,” he said, admitting he was “amazed” that the mural is getting such love and care now when the forces of fascism are once again swirling around.

Luckily, Vallen said, there are “some people who love this mural and understand its historic significance,” adding “I’m sure there are others who will snipe at him.”

Vallen is grateful that the Getty Museum has been a main proponent behind restoring “American Tropical.” They did so despite the fact that “American Tropical” is, after all, a Siqueiros, thus its themes are revolutionary, speaking up unabashedly about the oppression of American Imperialism and Mexican Indians.

Siqueiros was, of course, one of the trio of great Mexican muralists, including Diego Rivera and Jose Orozco. The three of them created the Mexican muralist movement, which had its roots in the most classic of traditions, the Renaissance muralists of Italy.

In preparation for the unveiling of “American Tropical,” the city fathers of Los Angeles declared April 20 “Siqueiros Day” and even though Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has lost much of his credibility with folks on his political left, he talked glowingly of the great man. He just didn’t use terms like “American Imperialism.” Just as well, Vallen said.

Vallen complimented Mayor Villaraigosa for managing to avoid being overly political when he endorsed efforts to save the mural for posterity.

Anne said that a turning point for her father before Siqueiros came as a 15-year-old teenager growing up poor in New Jersey, Stein used to catch the tail winds of trucks, as he rode his bicycle out to Newark Airport. He loved experimental airplanes and liked to photograph them with his homemade camera. Like a lot of folks who grew up in the Depression, he was good with designing and keeping machines working.

Anne said that her father talked about watching Archile Gorky painting a mural on a building at the airport. Archile Gorky was an artist who insisted he was related to Maxim Gorky. He was not. He had been born in Armenia, escaped the Genocide, and ended up in New York where he became a significant artist. He was what would now be called a “social realist,” not part of the “modern art” movement. For Stein, encountering Gorky, triggered a revelation that art could be a higher calling.

Like many others of that age, Stein was a dedicated and talented artist who was also highly political. He had come to the conclusion that he needed Siqueiros because Siqueiros was not just an artist, he was the greatest revolutionary artist of all time. The muralists all owed their inspiration to the Renaissance fresco painters. Think of the Italian renaissance mural painting in the 1500s–think of Michelangelo painting the ceilings and walls of the Sistine Chapel.

For Stein, meeting Siqueiros was a turning point. “It solved the problem of the basis of my art,” he said.

Plainly, Anne said, Siqueiros had had an enormous impact not only on her father but a lot of other people. “His energy, his world view, the boldness of his painting, all became very embedded in people around him.”

The paintings of Philip Stein can be previewed at Take My Picture Gallery.

Lionel Rolfe is the author of “Literary L.A.,” about which a documentary is being made (www.facebook.com/pages/Literary-LA). Many of his books, including “Literary L.A.,” “Fat Man on the Left,” “The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey” and “The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather” are available digitally in Amazon’s Kindlestore.

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author



Leave a Reply

Back to Top ↑
  • Toberman Gala: April 4th

    Toberman Gala: April 4th
  • The Guide to Fine Dining

    The Guide to Fine Dining
  • Calendar

    March 2015
    S M T W T F S
    22 23 24 25 26

    Category: EntertainmentToledo Show

    27

    Category: EntertainmentToledo Show

    Category: CommunityJewelry Making Class

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentSoul Sacrifices

    Category: EntertainmentHell Ride

    28

    Category: EntertainmentKomedy Slam

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentDave Widow and the Line Up

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: EntertainmentCircus of Sin

    1

    Category: Art35th Annual Quilt Show

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    2

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    3

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    4

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: CommunityLittle Squirts

    Category: CommunitySea Club

    5

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: CommunityKlaus Center for the Arts Opening

    6

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: EntertainmentTrio Celeste

    Category: EntertainmentBatala Los Angeles

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentLauren Koval, Michael Ragonese Trio

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    7

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: TheaterThe Penis and Vagina Talk Shows

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: TheaterCirque Mechanics

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentTrio Eclectic

    Category: TheaterThe Penis and Vagina Talk Shows

    8

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: EntertainmentInna Faliks

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentJohn York

    9

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    10

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    11

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: EntertainmentBettman and Halpin

    12

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: EntertainmentBettman and Halpin

    13

    Category: ArtArts, Media Capstone Exhibitions

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentPaddy Keenan

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    14

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: EntertainmentMusic Under the Guns

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentCash’d Out

    Category: EntertainmentDoug MacLeod CD Release Party

    Category: TheaterNa Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    15

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: EntertainmentDavid Sanborn

    Category: TheaterStop Kiss

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentA Spoonful of Sherman: A Symphonic Concert

    Category: EntertainmentSherman Brothers

    Category: EntertainmentBlues Alive

    Category: EntertainmentSunday Jams

    16

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    17

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    18

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    19

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    20

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtBest of Show and Small Treasures

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentDoug C and the Blacklisted Hillbilly Stomp

    21

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityCivil War Lecture Series

    Category: CommunityWestern Museum of Flight Lecture Series

    Category: EntertainmentMarkus Carlton

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentDale Fielder

    Category: TheaterMarilyn Forever - A Full-Length Opera

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentSeduction

    22

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentL. Young

    23

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtHyung Mo Lee - Lessons Learned

    24

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    25

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityBirding at George F. Canyon

    Category: EntertainmentWicklow Atwater, James Hanicutt, & Hangdog Hearts

    26

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityCelebrate the Eighth

    27

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentCarl Verheyen

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentThe Naughty Show

    28

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityNature Walk with L.A. City Rangers at White Point Nature Preserve

    Category: CommunityAttracting Birds and Bees to Your Garden

    Category: CommunityGathering for the Grand

    Category: CommunityWisteria Regale

    Category: EntertainmentMarkus Carlton

    Category: TheaterBeyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants

    Category: EntertainmentBruce Baker & The Altered Presence Jazz Band

    Category: EntertainmentNoise Fest XVIII

    Category: TheaterThe Real Thing

    Category: EntertainmentCircus of Sin

    29

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityComplete Whale Watch with Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

    Category: EntertainmentJanis Mann & Bill Cunliffe Duo

    Category: ArtSecond Sight: New Representations in Photography

    Category: TheaterMarilyn Forever - A Full-Length Opera

    30

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    31

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    1

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    2

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    3

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: EntertainmentSister Spit National Tour

    4

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

  • Like Us On Facebook!

  • Take a Trip to Havana

    Take a Trip to Havana
  • Join the RLn Network

    Subscribe Today:


    Options


  • Get Home Delivery!

    Get Home Delivery!
  • Reset The Net: Protect Your Privacy

    Reset The Net: Protect Your Privacy