Galileo, Jupiter Apollo, John Wehrle’s large mural on the north retaining wall between Spring Street and Broadway offers a juxtaposition of unusual figures, objects and scenery. Relating to Los Angeles as both a center of high technology and the home of the 1984 summer Olympics, it depicts fragments of classical Greek buildings and statuary floating in space. A sculptural piece shaped like a finger, pointing to an astronaut on Jupiter’s left recalls the central panel of Michelangelo’s’ Sistine Chapel creation.
The design is a development of an unexecuted mural Wehrle called the Ruins of Babel. It depicted a mythical tower, designed to reach the heavens, actually in the heavens. Continuing its same premise-“ the visual absurdity of metaphor made concrete”- Wehrle adapted the work to the Olympics by replacing the original Roman architecture with remnants of a Greek Temple and adding the Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) to the architectural pieces.
Galileo was the first person to use a telescope to view the planet Jupiter, which was named after the Roman counterpart of Zeus- the father of both the Olympics and the god Apollo.
Along with Terry Schoonhoven’s Olympic painting, Galileo was the first public mural in Los Angeles to use Keim Paint. Developed in Germany over a century ago, silicate paint bonds directly to the cement. Lightfast, it does not fade or peel. However, the material is not impervious to tagging and over its 30 year lifespan the painting has been subject to aerosol abuse. Working with the artist, the painting was restored in 2004, by a crew led by Donna Williams and Chris Stavroudis. Restored by MCLA in 1995 and is currently in the final stages of restoration by Willie Herron and the MCLA (2015). Photo © Robin Dunitz