Mural Project honors punk, skateboarding
by Ryan McDonald
In the process of reading the latest entry for the Hermosa Beach Mural Project, board member George Schmeltzer used a bit of deception.
The Mural Project board had settled on punk rock and skateboarding as the theme for the eighth of what will be 10 murals celebrating Hermosa’s history. So they decided to reach out to a Hermosa native son with punk and art bonafides: Raymond Pettibon, brother of Black Flag founder Greg Ginn and designer of the band’s now-omnipresent “bars” logo.
The only problem was that no one knew how to get in touch with Pettibon, who now resides in New York City, and whose stature in the art world is high enough that he had a retrospective last year in the New Museum in Manhattan. So Schmeltzer reached out to a New York gallery representing Pettibon, pretending to be a collector interested in some pieces.
“One of the items I had identified had just sold for $70,000 or something. I confessed that I had just been trying to track him down for our project,” Schmeltzer recalled with a laugh.
Schmeltzer never heard back from Pettibon, but the board is convinced that they ended up getting the right man for the job, anyway, Daniel Inez is a South Bay native, designer and past member of multiple punk bands. Inez’s mural design centers around “The Church” a former Baptist Church that for decades sat near the intersection of Pier and Manhattan Avenues.
Today, the space is occupied by Abigaile and the Alta House, but it once served as a residence and practice space for Black Flag and other punk groups. A skateboard ramp on the property helped cement the connection between the two underground subcultures that have long since gone mainstream. Inez said that the rich history of the area made him feel honored to have the opportunity to design the mural.
“I knew right away it should be historical, with the focus on the culture arriving out of The Church,” he said.
Inez is a natural choice for the Mural Project. He co-founded the pop-up Pacific Stranded on Aviation Boulevard last year with photographer Brent Broza, where he specialized in things like customized street signs in the style of South Bay cities. And he is the owner and art director of M1SK, an art-and-apparel collective whose iconography is rooted in South Bay culture. Among the items in M1SK’s ample archives are shirts and mixed-media art pieces involving the Black Flag bars.
He describes the mural’s design as influenced by Pettibon, and said he views the project as a reflection of the community he treasures. Along with Ginn, the mural will feature members of Pennywise, the “Milo” character who graced the cover of Descendents albums, and skateboarder Mike Smith, a Hermosa native, and creator of the Smith Grind.
Although Inez has an extensive design background, a large piece of public art is something new for him. So he said he will be enlisting others from M1SK, including artist Josh Kimbrell, to help. The mural will go up on a wall at the southeast corner of Parking Lot C, near Hermosa Avenue and is expected to begin right after Labor Day, with an unveiling ceremony and fundraiser set for Oct. 3.
Although he seemed born for the task, board members said the selection process was competitive. It ultimately came down to Inez and another submission said board member Steve Izant. Inez prevailed because his submission “told the story the way we thought it should be told.”
“Both of the murals we had were excellent choices. We had several meetings where one was in the lead, and then the other was in the lead. In terms of mural selection, this was probably one of the closest ones yet,” Izant said.
The remaining two mural subjects have not yet been decided, Izant said, although they are considering dedicating one to the former Biltmore hotel. The board plans to begin the selection process after the unveiling in October.
Getting one for punk rock, however, was a priority. Schmeltzer recalled an exhibit at the Hermosa Museum several years ago, which featured punk rock art centered around flyers from shows through the ages. The show was among the best attended he could recall the Historical Society putting together. And, since the theme of the mural was announced, he said he has been overwhelmed with people of all ages mentioning bands.
“I have heard that from so many people: ‘I used to play in a band,’ ‘front a band,’ ‘travel with a band,’ something,” Schmeltzer said. “It’s hard to have lived here without had having some contact with it.”
Despite punk’s anti-authority ethos and frequent association with lawlessness — Black Flag sometimes dedicated songs, tongue firmly in cheek, to former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates, who broke up their shows and deemed punks hoodlums — there was never a doubt that it would be a subject for the mural project. Even though the members of the murals board are “a bit older than the average Hermosa citizen,” as with all previous entries, the decision was unanimous.
“If you’re not pushing back on the generation that precedes you, you’re probably dead. There’s a little bit of that in Hermosa history,” Schmeltzer said.