Painting the Town - Page 3

When mosaic master Alfonso Pardiñas lit up the Bay Area with his colored glass and lively personality
Painting the Town
This mural, designed by artist Jean Varda with mosaics by Pardiñas, was installed at the main entrance of the Stockton Library.
Painting the Town
Pardiñas working on another Varda piece.
Painting the Town
Designed by Varda with mosaics executed by Pardiñas, this mural appeared at the main entrance to the Villa Roma Motor Motel, a now-demolished building designed by Eichler architects Anshen and Allen in San Francisco's North Beach. The mural survives, today on display in Sausalito's Marinship Park.

Sizemore points out that, in the Bay Area at least, Pardiñas was perhaps the largest creator of mosaics by volume. "In terms of public mosaics, I think he was probably brokering the biggest deals, because he had the corporate and the municipal deals," she says.

Even his essentially single-color mosaics were special, thanks to his attention to subtle changes in hue, shape, and the play of light. "It was the way he could make color come alive," Ilka says. "If it's red, it's not just all red. He made the color jump and come alive, vibrant."

"He was very busy," brother Guillermo Gutierrez says. "He was making a million dollars."

It's not surprising, perhaps, that Pardiñas has dropped out of the history books. From the start he was a man—or rather a boy—of mystery. Even today, some 'facts' about his life are closer to myth.

Did Alfonso work with such luminaries of Mexican art as Rivera, Siqueiros, and O'Gorman while still living with his parents in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coayacán?

No, says Gutierrez, who was three years younger, and followed Alfonso to the states, where he worked with him for a year or two laying tile. Gutierrez says Alfonso learned the tile trade after serving stateside in the U.S. Army during World War II.

About mosaic work, Gutierrez says, "He learned it himself." "He was very, very, very smart," says Gutierrez, tapping his head to illustrate.

As a boy, one of six children in a poor family, Alfonso was "very wild, but not bad," Gutierrez says. Like his dad, a ticket taker, Alfonso worked at the Cine Rex movie house. Alfonso briefly attended high school, Gutierrez says.