A new mural is adding its “visual lexicon” to The Village, and its creator hopes it will offer La Jolla viewers something “playful and light.”
“Newz!” by Math Bass was installed Jan. 28 at 7766 Fay Ave. by Murals of La Jolla, a project of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library that commissions artists to create works for public spaces.
The new mural is part of a series of similar images Bass began in 2012.
“All of the paintings have the same title,” said Murals of La Jolla Executive Director Lynda Forsha. “They all contain this visual language that’s been developed by the artist that has a very graphic quality and recurring elements.”
The new edition of “Newz!,” which Bass designed for the site, “uses letters that are familiar from some of the other works,” Forsha said. “There’s a red cone form, a speech bubble, the alligator mouth. … All of the works are very pared down into very tight compositions using this vocabulary and imagery. I would say that a lot of the symbols seem to imply some kind of movement or action.”
Bass said the image “is composed of characters in a visual lexicon that I’ve been developing over the last eight years. The image itself doesn’t have a fixed meaning; it’s more about the way the relationships between different forms and the image create tension.”
Forsha said: “I find the work to have a surreal quality in the way the images are juxtaposed and the imagery seems sort of dreamlike. I think it also brings to mind hieroglyphics and pictograms. I think by nature we are always looking for the meaning of something — what do all these elements mean? With Math, a lot of the work is about ambivalence.”
“I was looking at the proportions of the [intended space],” Bass said, “and I just wanted to bring something playful and light.
“I’m not trying to control people’s experience in viewing. I really just want people to come at the image and to experience it however they feel moved to experience it.”
Forsha suggested that viewers “try to just experience the work rather than trying to decode it. The meaning is what you bring to it and how you experience it and how you experience this language. I think it’s all about the possibility of the meaning of something not being fixed. It’s not advertising; it’s not trying to sell us something, it’s really just here for our pleasure and for us to enjoy.”
The Murals of La Jolla Art Advisory Committee “loved the idea of working with Math Bass,” Forsha said. “We all agreed that the graphic and stylized imagery seemed really well-suited for the project and for this particular site.”
Bass is “contributing something totally new to the project,” Forsha said. “I think people will be surprised and excited when they see the image. Everyone who has seen the mural so far has been extremely enthusiastic.”
Bass, based in Los Angeles, also is a performance artist who prefers painting “the most right now. … [It] is as challenging as it is rewarding.”
The newest installment of “Newz!” is not the artist’s first foray into public art. “I have had large-scale murals installed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai,” Bass said. “This will be my third public mural and I’m excited about it.”
“Newz!” is the 36th mural commissioned by Murals of La Jolla; 16 are currently on display.
“This [past] year has been difficult for art institutions,” Forsha said, “and while many … important art venues are still closed, Murals of La Jolla is on view to the public 24/7.”
The project commissioned five new murals in 2020, which Forsha said “is kind of extraordinary. It’s because we’re working in the public sphere that we have the ability to continue doing what we’re doing. And artists are very happy to be commissioned to do something right now. The work continues.”
Bass said “it feels good to see art outside of museums and galleries. [It] feels good to use the space of a billboard to sell absolutely nothing. I think it’s a great project.”
Self-guided tours of the Murals of La Jolla are available at muralsoflajolla.com/murals-map. ◆