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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
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May 4, 2012     The Catalina Islander
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May 4, 2012
 

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Museum reveals story of Avalon Casino murals STAFF REPORT component of the building had yet to be addressed. The execu-- tion of the monumental murals intended to cover the walls of the building's two main focal pointsits entrance facade and movie theater--were not commis- sioned.- With construction run-- ning-behind schedule, the murals now had to be executed while the building was still under construc- tion and before its opening, just a few months away. The idea Of the Avalon Casino originated with William Wrig- ley Jr., the enormously success- ful chewing gum magnate who financed its construction. But the responsibility of directing its building was assigned to Wrjg- ley's trusted associate, David M. The Avalon Casino looms large over the town's harbor. Like a monumental sentinel, it has wel- comed millions of visitors to the island since its construction in 1929. The sheer size of the building and its attention to detail make it a compelling architectural land- mark. Just as compelling, how- ever, is the history-of its making, and an exhibition currently on view at the Catalina Island Mu- seum "Fantasy Into Art: The Avalon Casino'Murals of John Ga- briel Beckman" offers the public its first glimpse into a story never before told. As tall as a i2-story building, men worked around-the clock Renton. -. to construct the Casino in just Renton's bunt for an artist ca- 14 months. But as the building pable of pulling off the nearly im- neared its completion, it was rec- possible took him to nearby Los ognized suddenly that a critical Angeles, where he quickly learned CELEBRATE at The Landing Bar & Grill Bring Mom in and we will treat her to a glass of champagne_ or a Mimosa. of the work of John Gabriel Beck- man. The young painter was still something of an unknown,but had earned a reputation after executing the murals in Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The murals had captivat- ed the entire Hollywood commu- nity since their completion only two years earlier in 1927. Renton was impressed, and in- vited him to discuss the Avalon commission with Wrigley over dinner in his Pasadena home. Beckman left the dinner with a challenge: create a preliminary drawing so impressive that Wrig- ley might grant the entire com- mission to him. Speed was of the essence; and a mere two days later, Beckman presented Wrigley a painted sketch, which provided a conceptual rendering of the Ca- sino theatre's interior. This painting presents a tradi- tional conception: a pastiche of ClNCO DE MAYO scenes inspired by Greek, Romafi and Egyptian mythology cover the theater's enormous walls and ceil- ing. Not a revolutionary approach, but the drawing demonstrated that the young artist had talent and, perhaps more important, he had already distinguished himself by pulling off a monumental commis- sion. Wrigley made a split-secon d decision. Beckman was granted the commission on the spot, and he was given almost total artistic freedom. But the directive was clear: get the job done on time. By the time Beckman arrived on the island and was able to work, "he had 90 days. Drawing now assumed an even Saturday, May 5th COME CELEBRATE CINCO DE MAYO AT THE AVALON GRILLE THIS SATUKDAY! FOOD AND DRINK SPECIALS WILL BE AVAILABLE! more important role. Beckman worked out every scene in a series of separate sketches. Often paint- ed in watercolor, the drawings reveal the organization of each scene's composition, the narrative thread uniting the scenes and the placement and pose of each figure. As each drawing was completed, it was handed to a team of artists. They would create large-scale designs based on the drawings, transfer each design to the wall and then execute it in paint. It was a traditional and very efficient manner of working, and Beckman and his team worked tirelessly to meet their deadline. In taped interviews conducted years later, Beckman revealed that tem- pers often flared. But much to the delight of a very satisfied William Wrigley, Jr., the Casino opened on time, embellished with a magnifi-. cent ensemble of painted murals that continue o delight today. Sadly, only 12 of Beckman's original drawings for the project exist today. All are in the perma- nent collection of the Catalina Is- land Museum, and the present ex- hibition exhibits all but one of the drawings. These painted sketches -- seen together for the first time BIRTHDAYS MAY 4TH Rose Ann Hernandez Alessia Belsito-Rivera Tatilana Sweeter Marcy Kennedy Jennifer Munoz MAY 5TH Corey Hernandez Nicolette David Alexis Saldana Caittin Saldana MAY 6TH Natalie Camoazzie Amanda Younger Jack Reitinger MAY 7TH Aidan Rios Allan Cassillas Marian Rubio Tracy Larsen Monique Wander MAY 8TH Judy Alft Rebecca Twiss Carla Rinehart Celia Tejeda Maria Reyes MAY 9TH Patricia Hoefs Silvia Chavoya Pam Dougherty Skip Kohlhoff Buck Lopez Jackie Reed Stephanie Preston MAY 10TH Keith J. Walker Terri Hernandez Katie Amthor Kellie Costello Adriana Casillas Pam Gordon Morea Michelle Voci ANNIVERSARIES MAY 6TH Kyle and EJ Palmer MAY 7TH Ray and Betty Jo Garcia MAY 10TH Bobby and Nicole Engel Tony and Sherry Gonzales Exhibit, Page 9 6 1 Friday, May 4. 2012 THE CATALINA ISLANDER  ]l!f:[l I['T' ii:r'lt [IIJl[',Iir[!:[  1 ir I1ll I[ lllil?lllflHl] FII][! i,][l|[l[[',[[]!l [iilJil]g]/lliiilI : I|,l"i,,/llllllt l,1ii .......