White City depicts a mythological white-walled city where clear blue skies and an ominous frozen silhouette rise above architectural structures, seen through an illusionary “hole”. The painted metal sign frame, which supports the silhouetted figure, is based upon a four-story structure in downtown Los Angeles that was once used for film billboards. The use of the figure represented a new interest for Schoonhoven and, in this instance, was inspired by a 1932 horror film entitled Vampyr. In the film, a weathervane figure is shown against a foreboding sky each time the vampire appears.
Schoonhoven uses trompe l’oeil indentations, working with the existing depressions on the building to create an illusion of depth. It is as though viewers could look through a tunnel in the building to the vista beyond it. White City was commissioned for CSULB by the 1982 Museum Studies Class. Completion of the mural coincided with the presentation of the Museum Studies Class exhibition, Vapor Dreams in L.A.: Terry Schoonhoven’s Empty Stage.
Terry Schoonhoven (along with Victor Henderson) founded the Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad in 1969. He is credited with being one of the major stimuli for the contemporary mural movement in Southern California and across the United States. Schoonhoven was born in Illinois, received a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin and attended graduate art school at UCLA. Schoonhoven’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.