School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences

Student Art Project Continues to Delight Visitors to the ENS Building

Market Mural
“Market” by Robert Hugenberger, after restoration by Gary Hubert.

The ENS complex is the second oldest building on the SDSU campus. In one of the rooms off of the central quad is a colorful mural titled “Market”, that depicts a colorful market scene with an Aztec temple in the background. Art student Robert Hugenberger painted the mural in 1949 as his senior project.

The mural survived as other murals on campus were painted over or destroyed during remodels, perhaps because it was in a rarely used room in an out-of-the-way corner. However, as the room is now used more frequently for meetings, the mural required restoration to keep it in good shape. So school director Matt Mahar contacted University History Curator Seth Mallios, who has led the effort to preserve other historic murals discovered on the SDSU campus.

Robert Hugenburger
Robert Hugenburger working on the preliminary sketch for his mural.

Mallios believes the mural is significant because it combines the Mexican muralist tradition with the post-World War II fantasy and escapism of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The imagery, he said, unites modern Mexicans in the marketplace with their Aztec ancestry as pre-Columbian gods mysteriously float through the sky and stand in their midst.

“I think it is a strong statement of everyday life and reverence for the past,” Mallios said, adding that the subject matter and presentation reflects a prevailing student mindset of the time. He also cites the mural as an example of a talented student artist engaged in producing “real art” early in his career. “This isn’t just an empty homework assignment,” Mallios said. “This is a beautiful piece of art by a very talented individual who would go on and use these tools that he was crafting here.”

When news of the fundraising effort to preserve the mural went out, Hugenbergers’ son Lyle heard about the renovation effort. While Lyle was not an SDSU student, he was aware of the mural as a photo of it was prominent in his childhood home in Fullterton. Lyle was thrilled to be able to contribute funds toward the restoration of the mural and looks forward to seeing its completion.

Market Mural
Gary Hulbert’s painstaking restoration included cleaning the entire mural with handcrafted cotton swabs.

Lyle shared that the process of creating the mural was complex. It was first drawn, full sized, onto butcher paper with chalk, then colored over with paint. When the prototype was complete, Hugenberger then redrew the mural on the wall in the ENS meeting room. He used a rare “encaustic” medium of powdered pigment mixed with melted wax and turpentine. This produced exceptionally bright and vibrant colors, in keeping with the sun-filled market scene. Hugenberger last visited the mural some twenty years ago. After graduating from SDSU in 1949, he continued his education, earned an MFA degree and became an art teacher. He continued to paint until his death in 2008.

Market Mural RestorationThe mural was restored by Gary Hulbert, a widely respected conservator who has restored and preserved several of SDSU’s historic murals and whose work includes restoration of some of the famous Hearst Castle’s art. “In general, the mural is in good shape,” Hulbert concluded after closely examining the 27-by-8-foot work.

The restoration has just been completed and a public unveiling ceremony is planned for March 23 as part of the Explore SDSU Open House. The time has not been finalized but once the schedule for the day has been finalized it will be posted on https://ens.sdsu.edu/blog/2019/02/11/market-mural-unvieling/