Art on the 101

I’ve been house sitting down in Orange County, and made the drive between Huntington Beach and LA approximately one thousand times this past weekend. (OK, four times.) On Friday morning traffic was pretty heavy as I hit downtown, and I was in the lefthand lane. I noticed a series of decorations along the cement divider in the center of the highway, and was quite taken with them. Since I was driving alone (well, unless you count my sleeping son) I was only able to snap one photo, out the driver’s side window without looking at the camera. I think it came out pretty nicely.

(click for enormous)

Anyone know why these are there?

14 thoughts on “Art on the 101”

  1. I know I’ve seen these on the 101 stretch between the Alameda onramp and Mission exit (heading south/east) before you merge onto the 10 (San Bernardino) and I’m assuming they’re also on the other side, i usually don’t drive on the far left heading north/west so i haven’t paid attention. Actually, i know these well since my car was just hit next to one of these a few weeks ago.

  2. They’re definitely not painted – etched or blasted, I’d guess. And since they run for miles, four or five different pictures repeated over and over, I’d guess they were city-commissioned.

  3. i thought you guys were from LA?

    stencilers? c’mon even the best graff guys i know aren’t making thier own custom dividers in cement and making 90’s style reliefs on them and then sneaking them on to the freeways without us knowing it. or could they? well… anyways.

    these additions to the freeway system are actually every where. if you drive down the 710 they have dolphins. you guys got the missions. on the west side they are still going up on the 405(i think), with what picture i don’t know. they were all a part of a freeway bill that passed about 10-15 years ago. about when they built the Taj-Mahoney (the church in LA where the reliefs are most visible w/out a car). you probably never even noticed the op art anti-graffiti patterns that were started then either. they adorn the over passes on the 110 at south central. the same program helped beautify the sound walls in north OC, but failed to be attractive.

    open your eyes to the city and you WILL get surprised.

  4. Anyone remember that the 101 is also the Camino Real, (theoretically) linking all the missions? I think that explains why there are missions in the center divider of the 101.

  5. Interesting observation Diego, but who put them there? Certainly not the good Cardinal Mahoney who is the closest thing to the church ruler here in LA, certainly most powerful clergy in CA. Open to suggestions.

  6. The amount of time I’ve spent stuck there, I’d have time to blast a few bas relief portraits as well. Really.

  7. I’m pretty sure CalTrans chose to have those missions there to denote that it is El Camino Real, just like there are bells along El Camino Real in the Bay Area for that purpose. I’ve noticed that there are few (if any) signs along the 101 calling it El Camino Real, so my guess is they were put there by CalTrans.

  8. There is a sign notating with a bell hanging on the side of the 101 freeway northbound somewhere around rampart/silverlake blvd/vermont. Don’t remember where but it’s there.

  9. There are a few “El Camino Real” signs north of the city, in the valley and on the way to Santa Barbara. I’ve never noticed them anywhere else, but I am not terribly observant. I’ve been trying to remember what the other designs I saw were — I know there was a lone palm tree, and I think there were bells.

  10. They’ve been there years since an episode of highway improvements in the area a long time ago–maybe around the time the new cathedral was put in?…I think. They’re a sort of relief decor that the transit folks put into freeway walls throughout SoCal. I’ve seen other imagery in other places. It’s not street art–if anything, it’s public art. Your tax dollars at work.

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