Golden Age of Venice Displayed in New Mural

As Venice begins to enjoy a modern day revival, a new mural by artist Jonas Never remembers a time not yet depicted by Venice mural history.

The murals adorning the walls of Venice have expressed the community's personality and rich cultural history for decades.

The artwork has included Rip Cronk's famed depiction of "The Doors" frontman Jim Morrison, to his more current work such as . It also has included more recent additions such as MadSteez's recent mural of the late actor and Venice resident Dennis Hopper on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

Local talent Jonas Never will soon be added to the area's long list of talented muralists.

His 102-foot-by-50-foot behemoth adaptation of Hollywood legend Orson Welles' 1958 film Touch of Evil is at heart an homage to Venice history, culture and film.

Touch of Evil was a perfect fit for the space, Never said, not only for its famed opening scene, shot along Windward and Pacific avenues, but also for its content.

This classic film noir about Mexican drug cartels, corrupt cops, inter-racial marriage and a lawless border town garners a lot of similarities with the inherent nature of Venice. It was written, directed and co-starred Welles and featured Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, who are prominently depicted in the foreground of Never's mural.

"Venice is one of the last cities you'll find with someone's Mercedes parked next to some homeless guy's stuff," Never said. "People really kind of embrace the seediness here. It's very lawless, but a self-governed kind of lawless."

A self-proclaimed movie buff and local Westsider, Never's Americana, nostalgic painting style has branded 13 Floyd's Barbershops in total, including the nearby Mar Vista barbershop and Hollywood locations. His designs also have met the walls of Melody Bar and Grill in Westchester and the bar formerly known as the Garter in Venice, among other public spaces.

Depicting this particular film also gave Never the chance to show a golden era in Venice that had seldom been shown, if ever, in the history of Venice murals: the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

The mural, set at night, is also a hat-tip to the renaissance of night life in Venice, as the community has begun to enjoy a resurgence of bars and restaurants moving to the area.

"Except for some of the newer stuff on Abbot Kinney, everything [on Venice Beach] is so daytime and 70s/80s modern. I thought about doing something from an era that had never been captured," Never said. "Venice has been in a million films, and I'd never seen that portrayed."

The opportunity arose after Never contacted Ann Everest and Simone Scharff of one of the biggest property management firms in Venice, General Real Estate, to attract as clients.

Never expressed his interest in restoring or possibly modifying the late Terry Schoonhoven mural, Windward Mirrored, located on the east side of Danny's Deli. When Everest and Scharff found out that one of Schoonhoven's dying wishes was for his walls to be given to the next generation of muralists, they asked Never to start mocking up a design.

"I wanted to do it 100 percent," Never said. "Although I was kind of nervous because it's so big and so public."

He started sketching in mid-October and put paint to wall on Nov. 9.

"I think it's impressive," Everest said. "When you go down the street, it just hits you."

Although the piece is still a work in progress, Never has augmented the silver screen's version of Windward and Pacific to adapt to Venice's changing history.

The famed Venice sign was a vital addition to the mural, especially because it was a fixture on Windward before it was said to have mysteriously dissapeared sometime in the 1940s. Plans call for illuminating the Venice sign on the mural to mimic the famous sign stretching across Windward Avenue.

"It's really rare to have a place where you can paint [a past version of] the block you're actually on, captured on film in that moment in time; then compare it, literally, right up next to the modern day version which is going on outside," Never said.

The decision to plant an American flag in the foreground of the piece had more to do with history than patriotistm. Venice was, after all, introduced as the "Venice of the Americas" and through Never's research, he saw a time when American flags were displayed across Windward.

Jill Prestup, president of the Venice Historical Society, was pleased to see the mural being worked on.

"Murals are wonderful and they add to the historic value of Venice," Prestup said. "I'm happy that they're restoring something that means something to Venice - a wonderful time in Venice."

The mural's completion date is set for some time this spring.

Never can be found on most sunny days finishing up his currently un-named mural at 23 Windward Avenue, Venice, CA, and can be contacted through his website at www.livefastdieawesome.com.

Todd von Hoffmann January 06, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Though disappointed the wall didn't go to Rip Cronk as once planned, this work by Jonas Never is a beautifully evocative noir homage to historic Windward. In addition to Ann and Simone, thanks to Daniel Samakow of "Danny's" for his efforts behind this gift. The inclusion of the Venice Sign provides a terrific juxtaposition with our swingin' restored icon.
Jim Smith March 05, 2012 at 12:27 AM
The reason why this "Golden Age" hasn't been depicted in murals before is that it was not Venice's Golden Age. This was the time that Lawrence Lipton called Venice the "slum by the sea." It was a great time for the Beat Generation, coffee houses, poetry and cheap rents. You could even sleep on the beach back then. By the way, this period was depicted in a series of murals by Judy Baca which once adorned the walls around the Pavilion picnic area. They were destroyed by the city. I like Never's new mural but it's a shame it had to be painted on the same wall occupied by Terry Schoonhoven's mural, which could have been restored. Are we running out of blank walls in Venice. If you don't remember Terry's great mural, here it is in all its glory: http://www.freevenice.org/Beachhead/April2005/Beachhead_April2005.pdf


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