Monday, October 14, 2013

Pan American Bank Mosaics & 1st Street Murals

The Pan American Bank is not just a building with beautiful mosaics. Unlike so many of the mid-century banks we've featured here--the Home Savings and Loans, etc.--Pan American Bank is still open, still a part of the community for going on 50 years.

Pan American Bank opened in 1964 at 3626 E. 1st Street in East LA.

In 1966, artist Jose Reyes Meza completed these mosaics, titled "Our Past, Our Present, and Our Future." The mosaic was restored last year by volunteers.

This image below is from the bank's Facebook page:

I'm displaying it in "original size" so I'm not sure how it will turn out on the blog. But it is an incredibly detailed picture.

The artist, Jose Reyes Meza, died just two years ago, in his 80s. He's best known as a painter and his murals are featured all over the Americas, including the the Raudales Malpaso Dam in Chiapas. I don't see any references to other mosaic work, but he did something called plastic integration that melds plastic sculptured pieces with mural backgrounds. There are several examples pictured of this technique used in churches, and it's very striking.

On the next block of 1st Street, down from the Pan American Bank, is a series of 17 arched murals made with painted ceramic tiles, inspired partly by Reyes Meza's artwork on the bank. Those murals were put up in the 1970s. The line is blurry on whether these are mosaics or not, but what the heck--I've featured tile pictures here before. The rules for Mosaic Monday are extremely pliable.

A group headed by artist Johnny D. González,with Robert Arenivar and David Botello designed the murals, which were made into tiles in Mexico by Joel Suro Olivares. Robert Kemp was the owner of the store (it closed in 2007) that sat behind the murals, which are titled "The Story of Our Struggle."

With the store gone, Pacific Charter Schools is interested in the property as a site for a middle school and high school--but they weren't necessarily sold on preserving the art. So  the artists were contacted (which is the state law, thankfully) and a new coallition was put together to save the murals.

There is a happy ending to all this. Read more about that at KCET's page here and here, at EGP News. The old store building will go, but the murals will be preserved and will surround a courtyard at the new school, about ten feet back from the sidewalk.


Jesse Tor res said...

Thank you for featuring our beautiful facade!

Jesse Torres
President and CEO
Pan American Bank

Vickey Kall said...

You are very welcome!