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New La Jolla mural uses bandleader’s century-old quote to bring modern race issues into focus

"In Chains" by Marcos Ramirez ERRE is the latest installation in the Murals of La Jolla program and the second by ERRE.
(Courtesy)

If the latest installation in the Murals of La Jolla program looks familiar, there’s no need to get your eyes checked. The new “In Chains” mural was done in the same style and by the same artist as its predecessor, “Is All That It Proves.”

Both are Snellen eye chart-inspired pieces by Marcos Ramirez ERRE with quotes written in place of the letters one would read for an eye test. “In Chains” contains the Paul Whiteman quote “Jazz came to America three hundred years ago in chains.”

The mural was installed Sept. 1 at 7744 Fay Ave.

“The whole idea with the Eye Chart series is just take quotes from people and place them in a way to get people to really look at those quotes and the messages behind them,” ERRE said. “For me, thinking about things like the upcoming election and this historic time, [this mural and this quote] speaks to the importance of the migrants and African Americans that are very important to making this country an even better country.”

Artist Marcos Ramirez ERRE
The “In Chains” mural “speaks to the importance of the migrants and African Americans that are very important to making this country an even better country,” artist Marcos Ramirez ERRE says.
(Courtesy)

“These people came to America and were slaves for many years, but we take so much from their culture — the flavors of their foods and the soul in their music, jazz being the big one,” he added. “When people travel, they bring their culture and value with them and it becomes part of the culture of the new country in which they live.”

Whiteman was an American bandleader, composer, orchestral director and violist known as the “King of Jazz” in the 1920s and ‘30s. ERRE uses Whiteman’s quote to shed light on systemic racism still facing America about a century later.

The current piece is the second of what will be three murals in the Eye Chart series at that site, each with a message reflective of the current climate. ERRE is the first artist to have two pieces in the Murals of La Jolla rotation.

“At a recent meeting of the Art Advisory Committee for Murals of La Jolla, we discussed how well Marcos Ramirez ERRE’s Eye Chart ‘Is All That It Proves’ worked on its Fay Avenue location,” Murals of La Jolla Executive Director Lynda Forsha said of the decision to have multiple ERRE pieces.

“We agreed that this site is ideal for more intimate works that can be seen or read as you walk by. Knowing that there were more works in ERRE’s important Eye Chart series, we thought it would be interesting to commission two more murals on this site, creating a series of text works that would deliver his critical, yet poetic commentary on some of the most important issues of our time.”

The artist said it is a “compliment” to be a repeat participant.

“They invited me to dance, and I dance,” he said.

“Public art is very important — we have the right to express ourselves and art makes it possible for me to express myself and whatever change I would like to see in the community,” he said. “I’m grateful that I get to show my art here. I think it’s great to have this opportunity and allow artists to express themselves and allow society to react to those expressions.”

ERRE was born in Tijuana and immigrated in 1983 to the United States, where he worked for 17 years in the construction industry. He came to prominence in the 1990s with large public installations that dealt with migrants, immigration and border control, specifically focusing on the Mexico-U.S. border crossing, according to press material. His work has been featured in many major international exhibitions.

The Murals of La Jolla program was created in 2010 by the La Jolla Community Foundation and subsequently relinquished to the care of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, which oversees the program.

There currently are 16 murals in place around town, funded solely by private donations. For more information, visit muralsoflajolla.com.