Tourists flock to Venice Beach for the odd people and even odder shops and street vendors, or to admire the lightly-oiled hunks at Muscle Beach, or the lithe blond girls who rollerblade along Ocean Front Walk in their microscopic bikinis, or just for the general strangeness. Physicists explain the four properties of the sub-atomic quark as upness, downness, strangeness and charm. That will also do quite nicely for Venice Beach. But you might miss the local community.
Last year there was that dispute about the eruv that made the national news, and the movie star Elliott Gould is known to have attended the Pacific Jewish Center
Pacific Jewish Center is a unique Torah community, located in the Venice/Santa Monica vicinity of Southern California. Sixty years ago, "The Shul on the Beach" was part of a thriving Miami Beach-type Jewish coastal community. Over time, suburbanization and the introduction of air-conditioning took their toll. The community was down to one shul (this one) and no minyan.
And at the north end of the beach, where the craziness ends, there is the Israel Levin Senior Adult Center
This senior citizen center played a prominent role in Lynne Littman's 1976 Oscar-winning short "Number Our Days" and Jeremy Kagan's "The Big Fix" (1978) where private detective Moses Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) visits his radical communist aunt; its mural "Chagall Comes Back to Venice Beach" can be seen in "Falling Down" (1993), with Michael Douglas and Barbara Hershey.
That's what we have here - Chagall Returns to Venice Beach, at 201 Ocean Front Walk (between Ozone and Rose Avenue) by Christina Schlesinger. This is the 1996 reconstruction of and elaboration on the original mural Chagall Comes to Venice Beach from 1991, which was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
It's rather famous, and at LA Murals you'll find this explanation of its imagery
Much of the imagery comes directly from the work of Russian-Jewish painter Marc Chagall, dropped into a setting of the Venice beach. At the far left a rabbi is holding a torah on which is written in Hebrew the 5th Commandment, "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother." At the other end of the mural is a poem about overcoming obstacles called "Roots." It is written in Yiddish and English by 95-year-old Dora Bayrack. The Levin Senior Center, a part of the Bay Cities Jewish Community Center, provides kosher meals, classes and other activities for seniors in West Los Angeles, Venice and Santa Monica
This grew from The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), founded 1976 by the muralist Judith F. Baca, painter Christina Schlesinger, and filmmaker Donna Deitch.
As for Marc Chagall (1887-1985, born Moishe Shagal in Vitebsk, in the Russian Empire but now in Belarus), everyone thinks of him as a French painter, the playful post-impressionist, part of the art community of Montparnasse, a friend of Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay, and Fernand Lιger and closely associated with the Paris School and its exponents, including Modigliani. The next time you're in Paris check out the ceiling in the lobby of the Palais Garnier, the old opera house it's a kick.
Of course there more than that
Chagall became an active participant in the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Soviet Ministry of Culture made him a Commissar of Art for the Vitebsk region, where he founded an art school. He did not fare well politically under the Soviet system. He and his wife moved to Moscow in 1920 and back to Paris in 1923. During this period, he published memoirs in Yiddish, which were originally written in Russian and translated into French by Bella Chagall; he also wrote articles, poetry and memoirs in Yiddish, published mainly in newspapers (and only posthumously in a book form). He became a French citizen in 1937.
With the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of Jews and the Holocaust, the Chagalls fled Paris. He hid at Villa Air-Bel in Marseille and the American journalist Varian Fry assisted his escape from France through Spain and Portugal. In 1941, the Chagalls settled in the United States of America.
If you've dropped by Lincoln Center in New York you know his huge mosaic murals in the lobby of the new Metropolitan Opera House (1966), and over at the United Nations Headquarters there's a stained glass wall of his work.
What's he doing in Venice Beach, reinterpreted by Christina Schlesinger? He said it himself - "All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites." Venice Beach will do nicely. He would have liked this.