On July 20, 2016, the CityWide Mural Program (CWMP) team began the restoration process of La Ofrenda, located under a bridge on 2nd and Toluca in downtown Los Angeles. The piece was painted by Yreina Cervantez in 1989. Since then, the mural had been tagged with graffiti numerous times and completely covered by another mural.
The ofrenda, Spanish for “offering,” is an alter made to made to honor a saint or important person. This ofrenda is made in honor of Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America. The offerings come in form of candles, calla lilies, a god’s eye, and images of the workers for whose rights she fought for. On the right side of the piece, open hands display a poem by Gloria Alvarez. The mural is an homage to the strength of Latina women. It brings attention to the hardships of war and immigration, while highlighting the life and hope that endures through these struggles.
Assessment before the restoration, 2016
“La Ofrenda”, tagged several times before being completely painted over.
The mural was protected with the MuralShield coating upon its restoration in 2012. However, the mural was vandalized after the coating. Although the graffiti was removed from the mural, the work was left uncoated and thus, unprotected from future acts of vandalism. Due to funding complications with the contractor hired to remove the graffiti, the mural continued to be tagged over during these setbacks.
Despite these complications, SPARC continued to advocate for the restoration of “La Ofrenda”. Due to these efforts, the mural was added to the CWMP’s list of murals to be conserved in 2015 with the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs. “Through our advocacy and community outreach, we notified local groups that La Ofrenda was scheduled for restoration,” Carlos says. However, a local pastor hired a graffiti artist to paint over the entire artwork, leading to a complete shift of the CWMP’s plans.
“[The muralist] Yreina was of course upset after hearing of the news,” Carlos remembers. After multiple meetings with the local council member’s chief of staff, and later meetings with the Pastor, the incident cleared. “[The pastor] admitted that the whole incident was a terrible mistake on his part and offered to support the conservation efforts in any way he could. He apologized to [Yreina] numerous times and has since then been very helpful and generous in supporting the restoration of ‘La Ofrenda.’”
About the Process
The Team begins with a preliminary visit, during which they examine up close exactly what has happened to the mural and how they can best treat it. With the technology of the Digital Mural Lab, the Team is able to preserve the existing mural in a digital file and send it to the original artist, enabling them to install their mural anywhere they’d like.
Next, the restoration begins. For ‘La Ofrenda’, the a ‘controlled delamination’ method was used. Through this process, the Team uses special sets of gelled ecologically safe solvents—one of which encourages delamination of surface paint layers, one color at a time, while another set affects the binder in paint, causing it to shrivel and craze.
It is important to note that unconsolidated paint layers are never actually chemically bound to each other. They only rest on top of each other. One can carefully peel back paint layer by paint layer with just the use of water at a specific temperature. With this method, the Team was able to remove the existing mural while preserving Yreina’s mural underneath. It is very similar to an archaeological dig site: you carefully remove the sediment that surrounds the artifact that conservation.
To protect the mural, the team uses MuralShield, a system that uses a single-treatment consolidant to shield the mural against light damage, delamination, oxidation, and efflorescence. The system is very well designed to accommodate small or large mural projects, as well as aged or new murals.
For Yreina’s mural, the conservation work took three days, thanks to the diligent and speedy work of the CWMP. Yreina will be completing the in-painting repairs of the mural over the duration of ten days.
Street view on Google Maps:
The restoration by SPARC’s Mural Rescue Program is funded by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
685 Venice Blvd,
Venice, CA 90291