When an iconic artist tackles the indisputable zeitgeist of the classic surfing era in American history, it’s undoubtedly going to get people talking.
The next installment for the Hermosa Beach Murals Project will surely do just that. It’s bright, funkadelic, beachy and in many ways, a perfect snapshot of a moment in time just as much as it is timeless.
The surf-themed mural, commissioned by the HBMP that is placing 10 throughout town within a decade, will be an original piece of art by John van Hamersveld, the 73-year-old Palos Verdes resident who has five decades of commercial success. The artist, best known for designing the “Endless Summer” movie poster, has three works of art in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection: the “Endless Summer,” the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album and, just recently purchased, a wild poster of Jimi Hendrix’s electric’do. He’s also the creative brains behind the Fremont Project in Las Vegas, a fully immersive art show of music, LED lighting and collage.
The Hermosa project may be one of the most unique spaces van Hamersveld has ever designed. The mural, to be printed on strips of adhesive, will go up on the building which houses Underground at the corner of Hermosa Avenue and 14th Street. It’ll cover nearly the length of the building on 14th Street, which is an oddly shaped trapezoid along the gradient of a hill. The nod to Hermosa’s surf culture history, particularly in the hey day of the 60s and 70s, was selected by the Murals Design Committee and realized by van Hamersveld. The HBMP’s four other murals depict early images of the city and its rich history of jazz and connection to swimwear.
The mural, to be unveiled sometime within the next month, is shockingly bright, reminiscent of the psychedelic vibe of a bygone era. A large wave and wet sand are peppered with swirls and polka dots. Three surfers stand with boards, ranging from long to short, recognizing the history of boards from balsa wood to modern polyurethane, and Hermosa’s place in history as a primary producer of surfboards.
The fact that it reaches from floor to ceiling along the outdoor wall will likely prove to be a magnet for selfies and photo shoots—a new icon and defining place that will shout “Hermosa Beach” to all those who see the mural.
“We’re setting up an icon, a place to revolve around, to discuss,” said van Hamersveld. “That’s essentially what it is. It’s a discussion piece. Hermosa Beach will become a place where it’s communicating to the outer world, through that mural, through the questions, like what is it? What is it about? Where does it come from?”
He doesn’t expect everyone to love it. In fact, he expects some people to strongly dislike it. That’s sort of the point. Naturally, he hopes many people will get the mural and love it, but his purpose is to put the art out there, not for recognition or for praise, but to open up a conversation.
van Hamersveld hopes the mural will inspire folks to think about Hermosa’s place in history as one of the surf capitals of the world.
“It’s trying to generate a focal point on Hermosa Beach as a surfing community, an old one and a contemporary one as well,” said van Hamersveld.
Originally a realistic painter, whose mother sold his work along the Malaga Cove Lawn back in his pre-college days, van Hamersveld has developed throughout the decades into one of the country’s most cutting edge pop artists. He has embraced the computer by using bright and bold digital paint strokes, a touch of collage and a definite nod to the eclectic South Bay music and surf culture from the 1960s to the present.
Today, he leaves the paintbrush alone, pulling out a black Sharpie for initial set-up. He then scans his work into the computer, breaks it apart, rearranges it, and layers in the color, patterns and motifs. It’s all very modern and technologically fluent.
Throughout the decades, he’s done it all, creating art and graphic images of many sizes, from CD covers and music posters to the ceiling of the Fremont Project. He’s designed for music labels, clothing labels, surf companies, private collectors and public venues.
He sees it all as communication, a way to tell a story that combines art, books, lectures and graphic design.
“In art school, they teach you how to work with design as a medium, but in my framework with Lou Danziger, I learned about communicating with design, so most of my work went the way of communication,” van Hamersveld said.
Hermosa Beach Murals Theme and Concept Chair, George Schmeltzer, said he’s amazed at van Hamersveld’s concept, which he said is very adept at honoring the sport itself and all of Hermosa’s surf legends in one fell swoop.
“It’s not something I could have predicted,” Schmeltzer said. “I saw people on surfboards, the standard thing that you think of when you think of surfboards. It takes an artist. That’s what artists do. They’re not only the mechanics of painting, but they have a tremendous creative capability … I’m just blown away by how quickly and how easily the artists come up with these interesting, provocative concepts.”
Schmeltzer has been amazed by every mural that the nonprofit has commissioned, and is pleased that the five murals vary widely in technique, theme, design and artistic vision.
“Something we’ve consciously aimed for is to not repeat, so it’s not only the history of Hermosa Beach. We’re trying to put up things that are interesting and will attract discussion, not just on the subject matter, but the actual style of the art itself,” Schmeltzer said.
HBMP President Chuck Sheldon said he hopes the murals will become recognized as an inherently iconic part of Hermosa, a nod to its history, as well as a way to create a new artistic history, all within a walkable 250 yards of one another.
“The idea is exciting, in that once these murals are in place, there is going to be a history of Hermosa in large murals all over downtown Hermosa Beach that will lend itself both to someone going to our website and reading about the mural they’re looking at. It will lend itself to tours via proctor by the Hermosa Beach Historical Society,” Sheldon said. “I think that will be a wonderful way to introduce Hermosa to newcomers and ingratiate Hermosa to those of us who love it and live here.”
Sheldon looks forward to hanging van Hamersveld’s latest design.
“I think it will be an important addition to the mural project because of who the artist is and how striking it is,” Sheldon said.
A specific unveiling date has not been selected, but Sheldon expects the mural to be up within the next month.