When you meet your docent in the main lobby of the Central Library, the first art piece you'll see is the vibrant mural overhead that spans the vaulted ceiling. Our daily, free, hour-long art and architecture tour starts right there.
The painting, which measures 36 feet by 36 feet, is by Los Angeles artist Renee Petropoulos, and she named it The Seven Centers.In the early 1990’s, when the historic 1926 building was renovated and the Bradley Wing added, the Library set up a joint commission to oversee the selection of public art to enhance expanded facility. Petropoulos’ The Seven Centers, completed in 1993, was one of only five artworks selected by the commission, and is the only new art in the original building.
The Arts Commission sought to showcase Los Angeles artists, and Petropoulos is one of our finest. She was born in Los Angeles and got her BA in art history, MA in photography, and MFA in Studio Art from UCLA. She now teaches in the graduate department at Otis College of Art and Design.
Petropoulos wanted The Seven Centers to relate to the architecture and art of the original building, and so included decorative elements from throughout that building – the sunburst in the Rotunda ceiling, the silhouette of the Zodiac Chandelier, the checkerboard of the marble floors. Using brilliant colors, optical patterns, and decorative calligraphy, she included the names of her favorite contemporary Los Angeles authors– first names on one side, last names on the other. According to Petropoulos, many of the writers, like Amy Gerstler and Bernard Cooper, were just getting started, and not yet in the library's collection.
Petropoulos distinguished The Seven Centers from the rest of the art and decoration in the original building in another important way. The Seven Centers is asymmetrical, so the viewer's perception of the work changes as they move around the lobby. In Petropoulos's words, asymmetry means that "there is no privileged vantage point."
The Community Redevelopment Agency, which was involved in choosing the new art projects, calls The Seven Centers "an abstract montage celebrating Los Angeles’s literary life and contributions."
Petropoulos's public art pieces can be found in Southern California and elsewhere. Her work in terrazzo, “Two Hundred Fourteen Movements and a View”, is a permanent installation on the lobby floor of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Another terrazzo floor installation, "Is it Possible?" is found in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro, California. In a collaborative project, Petropoulos and other artists created sculptures entitled "Your Move" for the plaza outside the Municipal Services Building in Philadelphia. Petropoulos was lead artist on LA Metro's Orange Line, in which she imagine as a ribbon weaving through the San Fernando Valley, and she contributed her designs to the Green Line station in El Segundo. She has exhibited widely at many galleries and museums, including the Rosamund Felsen Gallery; the Los Angeles Museum of Art, an Eagle Rock artist-run space; the J. Paul Getty Museum; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Petropoulos has said about The Seven Centers, "I have always been a passionate reader and have been in awe of the process of writing. Being able to create a work for the Central Library in the city of my birth has been quite special.”