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In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.: Murals that conjure the great man, the enduring dream [Photo essay]

January 14, 2011 |  8:13 pm

Avalon Auto Repair, E. Colden Ave. at S. Avalon Bl, Los Angeles, 2005

Painted on the side wall of the neighborhood auto shop or the corner mom-and-pop store, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s image proclaims his place in the American pantheon. In some neighborhoods, he looks as if he might have had a Latin ancestor, and he makes common cause with the Virgin of Guadalupe and Pancho Villa. In other neighborhoods, he's accompanied by a stern Malcolm X or the pyramids of Egypt. Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara has been documenting such murals in Los Angeles and other American cities since well before the United States declared a holiday in King's name. Talisman, memorial and declaration of principles, the murals conjure the great man, the enduring dream -- and the power of the billboard.

--Photographs by Camilo Jose Vergara

Camilo Jose Vergara is a 2002 MacArthur fellow whose books include "American Ruins" and "How the Other Half Worships." camilojosev@gmail.com

Las Palmas Discount Market, 5600 Broadway, Los Angeles, 2010

Seafood restaurant, S. Normandie Ave at W. 47th St. Los Angeles, 1997

More murals after the jump» 

E. 76th Place at S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, 2009

Lupita's Discount Store, E. 55th St. at Compton Ave., Los Angeles, 2006

Private House, E. Palmer St. at N. Bullis Rd., Compton, 1998

Alley west of S. Avalon Blvd., near E. Colden Ave., Los Angeles, 1998

Ocean Tires #2, E. Colden Ave. near S. Avalon Blvd., Los Angeles, 2010

Paulina Variety Store, Compton Ave. near E. Vernon Ave., Los Angeles, 1997


Photo essay: Obamafication

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