The below-ground narrative is different. At the Universal City Red Line platform, there are four massive rectangular columns decorated with handmade ceramics on all four sides. In English and Spanish, the tiles tell a story of the difficulties faced by native peoples and black settlers, and of their unrecognized contributions. It’s Southern California history with a progressive edge.
Aboveground, it’s all fun and games and diversions from daily life. Below, it’s a stark story of 19th-century exploitation, war, strife and thorny racial relations.
Margaret Garcia’s artwork (construction designed by Kate Diamond) has a harsh beauty. It’s deliberately rough-hewn and naive, a hodgepodge of hand-lettered text and portraits, the spaces between filled by ceramic depictions of cannons, guns, hands, flowers, bones, acorns and cut-off legs. The four massive columns, with their garish colors and their message of justice for those who were denied it in California in the 1800s, produce a searing effect, artistically and emotionally.
Two stops beyond Universal City is the Hollywood/Vine station. Once you get off the train, you see ceilings covered with thousands of film-reel holders. The walls of the station represent film stock.
Up a level, there’s a metal railing with five horizontal rails, like a musical staff. Soldered onto the handrail-cum-musical-staff are a large steel clef and the musical notes of the song “Hooray for Hollywood.”
Most of the artwork at this station — dozens of tongue-in-cheek variations on what “star” might mean — was created by Gilbert “Magu” Lujan: tile fantasies of different sizes, some placed in out-of-the-way corners, ready to be discovered.
Lujan’s takes on “star” include a 1948 Chevy souped up so that it rides low to the ground — “Low-Rider Star” — and an anthropomorphic animal (a dog?) standing with each of its back paws inside a small car, each of which is atop a star — “Flying with Stars.”
“Skidding Star” shows a large five-pointed star wearing a red bikini. The two lower points of the star are “legs” covered in tar or grime, skidding on a downslope lined with palm trees and stars. The idea that a star can skid downward is the mordantly comic underside of the Hollywood dream.
Above, at street level, is the sleaze and glitz of tourist Hollywood: the sidewalk with stars’ names inscribed inside stars; well-known theaters; actors dressed as superheroes.
But below ground is Lujan’s art, which gives “Hooray for Hollywood” a dark meaning. In one piece, a 1950s car with three passengers emerges with musical notes out of a landscape of mountains and houses and stars, all framed by an odd-looking Hollywood sign. But “Hooray” is spelled “Hurray,” like a carny huckster urging the marks to hurry in: a sardonic view of Hollywood.