By Greta Cobar
Following the destruction of Venice’s oldest mural, which had been located at 55 Brooks, a lawsuit was filed April 21 against Ralph Ziman, owner of the building, and John Roe, the contractor who pressure washed the mural from the wall.
The plaintiff is Victor Henderson, who along with the late Terry Schoonhoven created the mural in question, known as the “Brooks Avenue Painting.”
Building owners do have the right to paint on their buildings, as long as mural artists are notified 90 days in advance. Henderson was not notified by Ziman, and was not aware that his mural was being destroyed. Would he have known, he could have photographed it, removed it from the wall, or negotiated with Ziman to restore it. “Instead it is now gone forever, and has been replaced by a replica that does not reflect the quality work of Henderson and Schoonhoven,” according to the lawsuit filed.
Henderson is represented by Eric Bjorgum, of the Pasadena law firm Karish & Bjorgum. Bjorgum also represented Ken Twitchell in the case against the city of L.A. that awarded Twitchell a million dollars after his three-story high Ed Ruscha (1987) mural disappeared in 2006.
In 1969, same year that the mural on Brooks was created, Henderson and Schoonhoven also created the Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad with the purpose of questioning the established culture of contemporary art by painting museum-quality work outside, making it freely available to everyone to view.
The “Brooks Avenue Painting” was the first painting by the Los Angles Fine Arts Squad (out of a total of six), and it signaled a change in muralism in Los Angeles by not having political or socio-economic overtones, but by being a realistic piece with accurate perspective depicting a street scene in Venice.
The mural became famous when locals at that time, Doors band members posed in front of it and used the photo for publicity. The Beachhead published an article after it was painted over, in the September 2013 edition. According to the lawsuit, Henderson is requesting a trial by jury and is suing for punitive damages and to deter others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct.
Above: Brooks Avenue Painting. 1970s