"Cultural Wave"

Detail, Sea Wall mural

Date:  1997


600 lineal feet, variable height


Pre-cast cement tiles

Commissioned By:

City of Manhattan Beach, California


Manhattan Beach Sea Wall, Manhattan Beach Boulevard at the Pier, Manhattan Beach, California 90266


Bas-relief Sea Wall mural composed of pre-cast four-inch cement tiles. Entire design is composed of four-inch tiles of two thicknesses and two colors, developing complexity with pattern and shadow along its length. Utilizes archetypal cultural graphic elements.


See Artist's Narrative, below; video tape available.


Sea Wall, south of Manhattan Beach Pier

Sea Wall, north of Manhattan Beach Pier

Details, cement tiles applied to Sea Wall

Artist's Narrative

The Sea Wall, running 600 feet across the length of the beach and varying in height from ground level to 14 feet, was beautifully enhanced with 4" x 4" cement tiles, applied in a relief pattern. The large-scale wall was transformed into an enormous cultural graphic, its design foundation in Manhattan Beach’s unique waterfront context. The motif employed here was a hybrid of archetypal cultural graphics used since pre-history to illustrate the continuity of the ocean’s dominance over the environment. The Greek "key" and other archetypal weaving geometry found in many other cultures uses such graphic elements to remind us of the perpetual movement of the ocean as well as the human aspect of culture.  Historically, the graphic was illustrated in the weave of a textile or on the side of a vase or fresco. These motifs are found in all North and South American indigenous cultures as well as European, Asian and African arts. Their simple nature and appearance belie their conceptual strength and importance to the progress of cultures, both artistically and culturally.  The Sea Wall, in a large-scale transformation of these elements, employs this graphic by using different layered thicknesses in permanently pigmented concrete block elements, attached to the wall.  From nearby (and especially from any distance), this concrete block veneer, with both color and shadow, visually excites and adds beauty, complexity and interest to this already dynamic element in the community.

For the site, I selected pre-cast stone tiles, which I had custom made. These large-scale pre-cast stone tiles use relief as well as color to illustrate the overall pattern, and complexity is added through the movement of the sun and shadows throughout the day. These pigmented stone tiles are four inches each and attached permanently to the wall surface. The stones are of two different thicknesses, creating a 1/2" shadow accentuated by the darker tile elements. These tiles were specifically fabricated for this application, in both size and color. Historically and practically, for Manhattan Beach, this motif illuminates and reflects the aspects of the ocean’s power, the edge dynamic of the coast, the wind and waves. I refined the image to allude to all cultures’ preoccupation with and respect for the beauty of these natural elements.

See also:
“Permanent Wave”

This commission is made possible with the support of the City of Manhattan Beach.

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