The crosswalks of Bunker Hill are alive with color

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Los Angeles' art community is shifting its focus to Latin America. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a city-wide effort focused on Latin American and Latino art that runs through the end of next January.

You can see a lot of that art now, and you can even see art right under your feet if you happen to be in front of the Broad in downtown LA.

If you go you'll find the four crosswalks at the intersection of West Second Street and Grand Avenue have been jazzed up and painted various shades of white, green, orange and blue.

It's called "Couleur Additive," and it's a work by the Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez. He is now 94, and he's unable to travel to LA, but over this past weekend, a team of painters -- and students from nearby Ramon C. Cortines Visual and Performing Arts high school -- brought to life with outdoor paint a design by Cruz-Diez.

His art belongs to a genre or school known as kinetic optical. It plays with illusion. He takes the crosswalk, which is regular stripes, and then he overlays color in, in stripes and in diagonals. So it kind of makes your eyes dance a bit.

Since 1975 he has been using color and pattern to transform crosswalks, walkways, airports, even a hydroelectric dam. There have been ones in Miami and Houston but this is the first one on the West Coast.

It was made at the invitation of the Broad and the curator was Ed Schad. He described what Cruz-Diaz believes is a core element to his work.

"Really the spirit of Carlos Cruz-Diaz's artwork in general is community based. One of the reasons why the artwork came off the canvas and literally became interventions in an urban environment was that he wanted people to get involved and he wanted to take the sort of precious veneer off of a completed artwork," Schad said. "Like a lot of conceptually-oriented artists in the United States, the plan is what matters. He sets the plan in motion and it can be completed by, in this case, high school students, which is fantastic."

So, is this art going to last, given the level of wear and tear that a crosswalk is subject to?

It's basic outdoor paint that is applied heavily but with some masking and a medium to hold the edge. There will be some fading over time. But for instance, Cruz-Diez did a crosswalk in Miami in the Wynwood district in 2013. And, Schad says, if you go to Google Earth right now and look at that crosswalk it still looks really good. He says they'll review the crosswalk in six months, but they expect it to be fully vibrant throughout that time.

Photo: One of the painted crosswalks in front of the Broad, in a design by Carlos Cruz-Diez. (Frances Anderton)