Curators have installed the 32nd piece in the public art project, Murals of La Jolla.
“ECLIPSE (PLAYTIME)” created by British installation artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien, now hangs at 7569 Girard Ave. and replaces Fred Tomaselli’s 2013 mural “Expect to Fly (For the Zeros).”
Julien spoke to the Light via phone from Santa Cruz, California where he works half the year as a professor at UC Santa Cruz and is creator of the Isaac Julien Lab for art students. He explained that “ECLIPSE (PLAYTIME)” features a still from his 2013 film “Playtime,” which looked at the role of capital and how it played out in various characters’ lives.
The silhouette in the mural shows a character who is a “modern representation of Icarus, the angel who flew too close to the sun,” Julien explained. “This is a kind of iconic image from ‘Playtime’ that shows someone who became financially ruined and lost his dream home, family and livelihood. The drastic, dramatic story is based on a very good friend and true story (that has a happy ending in reality). The title ‘ECLIPSE,’ stems not only from the visual representation, but also because of what happens to the character in the film.”
Julien said he is excited to see the mural displayed on such a large scale.
“The depth of the image lends itself to the allegorical aspect of the piece, as the image can be read very ambiguously. It’s a very open image, open to interpretation, an image that creates a window when mounted on a blank wall, giving the space an enigmatic presence. This is representation working at a more symbolic level. It signifies immediately to the audience an implied narrative.”
Julien added he chose the piece for the wall on Girard, based on an experience in New York, where a version of “ECLIPSE (PLAYTIME)” was displayed across many billboards in Times Square for a few minutes as part of an “art intervention.” He said he’s glad the mural will hang in La Jolla for some time and achieve “more permanency.”
Julien said he was approached by Murals of La Jolla after his shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where “Playtime” screened in 2019. The La Jolla commission gives him another platform for exhibiting his work, and helps him further his goal of building a West Coast presence.
A project now under the auspices of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, Murals of La Jolla demonstrates that commissioning artists to create works for public spaces brings energy and vitality to a community. The Murals advisory committee includes the directors “of all the visual arts organizations in La Jolla,” according to Murals of La Jolla executive director Lynda Forsha, and was founded in 2010 when the La Jolla Community Foundation sought an art project for La Jolla.
Kathryn Kanjo, a member of the Murals committee and director and CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego explained that “the selection committee develops a list of artists we think can handle the task of working in a public space and often times have a connection back to our community. We match artists’ imagery and subject matter with the conditions of the site.”
Julien, Kanjo continued, was high on the list for the Girard space.
“Isaac has shown his programs before in La Jolla,” she said. “At this point in his established career, his photography has a recognizable aesthetic, and I really do think there’s something uncanny about the imagery being a piece of architecture on a piece of architecture. It’s as if the mural transforms the building into a horizon, into a landscape.”
Installing murals like Julien’s is not always a simple process. Only three of the 32 murals were painted directly onto their sites, the others are hung from large metal frames. This mounting method involves a clipping process, Forsha explained.
“The installers go up and attach the mural to the top of a mounted frame,” she continued. “It drops down and then they stretch and trim it and then they add the outside edge of the frame and that’s what keeps it in place.
“Murals of La Jolla developed this system so the pieces have a presence — in opposition to just slapping the mural on a wall with adhesive. We’re using a super-high-quality vinyl and this framing system to give the mural a different kind of presence.”
For Kanjo, the hanging system “combines flexibility and practicality to allow for more sites to be able to accommodate murals. The process also lends itself to a fun kind of reveal; they sort of unroll and stretch tight and find their framed dimensions.”
Want to know more? For a history of the project and biographies of the mural artists, visit muralsoflajolla.com