A Lesson in local art history or a history lesson through art? The upcoming exhibit Guillermo Wagner Granizo: Ceramic Tile Muralist at the Benicia Historical Museum asks, and answers, this interesting question. The staging of this latest BHM rotating exhibit featuring the art of Guillermo Wagner Granizo begs the question, “Is this a history exhibit or an art gallerist’s offering?” The answer is a simple but emphatic, “Both!” Granizo captured Benicia’s history through his pavement portraits and pictorials that represent the people, events, and sites that express Benicia’s history. Part of our First Street landscape, literally and figuratively, they represent only a small portion of the work he produced over his career, most of which are large, densely colored glazed pottery tile murals that decorate the walls of many civic and community walls in Northern California and elsewhere. Although the Museum has produced a book about the pavement tiles (A Walking Tour of the Painted Tiles and Historic Landmarks on Benicia’s First Street—A guide to Granizo’s Sidewalk Ceramics) and sells Granizo mural poster images in our gift shop, space constraints and restoration issues hampered the display of the Museum’s Granizo collection until now. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, principally Jim Lessenger and Bob Rozett, the collection has been refurbished, hung, and is awaiting its unveiling along with the dedication of the museum’s new “mixed media” upstairs gallery. The framed tile pieces were structurally reinforced, cleaned, and equipped with the appropriate display hardware. The gallery is the perfect spot in which to arrange for art-related history and community education projects and programs. To that end, an elegant but rustic hanging system was devised that perfectly complements the industrial feel of the “Camel Barn,” and provides the desired flexibility and atmosphere for such an installation.
Ron Wagner, Granizo’s son, will be on hand to talk about his father and to share personal stories and insights into the artist and soldier who loved Benicia and captured her heritage so compellingly. Granizo’s tools and other artifacts will be on display, augmented with photographs, documents and other materials. We invite our friends and Museum family, members and residents, students, artists and historians to this most beautiful and important exhibit opening and Museum gallery unveiling event October 25 at 1pm. Admission and exhibits are free, light refreshments will be served and Granizo tile books and posters will be available for purchase. For more information call 707.745.5435 or visit beniciahistoricalmuseum.org.