Betye Saar’s L. A. Energy (Mural site: 5th Street between Flower and Grand) (1983), is related to the 167’ long landmark mural of the same title, which the city of Los Angeles commissioned Saar to create. It was destroyed only four years later in 1987. L. A. Energy, the screen print, was printed at the Women’s Graphic Studio at The Women’s Building (formerly the Feminist Studio Workshop) in Los Angeles, which supported feminist culture from 1973-1991.
The mural and the print share many of the same scattered and patterned elements: fish, stars, hands, hand fans, palm trees, birds, footprints, and abstract patterns. The colors have a distinctively West Coast flavor with lots of layering and forethought as to where the colors would reveal or hide one another. At first, this feels solely like a very playful image. With further looking, we become aware of the care taken with each decision to place so many elements, and the where and when in the sequence of making this joyful work.