Brooklyn–based artist Beau Stanton’s mural of Ava Gardner in Los Angeles’s Koreatown.

Artist Agrees to Modify Controversial Mural in Los Angeles

Following backlash from community groups, Brooklyn artist Beau Stanton has offered to make changes to the mural of American actress Ava Gardner he painted on the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex two years ago. The work, which features a profile of Gardner’s bust overlaid with palm trees and set against a blue-and-orange backdrop that evokes the rays of the sun, drew criticism from Korean Americans and the Wilshire Community Coalition, who claim that the rays are too similar to Japan’s Rising Sun Flag, which is viewed as a symbol of the war crimes the Japanese military committed during World War II.

After numerous arts professionals of the Korea diaspora called for the work to be removed or altered—including Christine Y. Kim, associate curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Kibum Kim, associate director and head of art business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Los Angeles—the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced it would paint over the mural in December 2018. The move sparked an outcry from artists and Los Angeles residents who don’t have objections to the piece and led to a debate about censorship. Those who came to the mural’s defense include Shepard Fairey, who claimed he would remove his own mural from the campus if the school destroyed Stanton’s.

On Wednesday, Stanton revealed that he agreed to modify the piece. “These interactions have allowed me to synthesize a solution that aims to rise above the original binary conversation of ‘keep or remove the mural’ in order to build upon the original work and create something that speaks to the past, present, and future of the RFK campus,” he told the Los Angeles Times. The compromise allows the artist to revisit his vision for the work while he makes changes in order to be sensitive to the activists who find it offensive.

The district has allotted around $20,000 to fund the additional work on the piece, which is located on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, and Stanton will collaborate with a team of students to develop the mural’s new look. Commenting on the project, the Los Angeles Unified Local District Central’s superintendent, Roberto A. Martinez, said that the discussions sparked by the mural led to a “great learning experience for us all.”