The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

In 1979, two artists covered a Southern California building with futuristic murals. They painted moon motorcycles, high-tech highways, and spaceships that would look right at home in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. But as delightfully retro-futuristic as the building is on the outside, what happens inside may surprise you. It's the Culver City DMV.

Artists David Rivas Botello and Wayne Alaniz Healy, founders of the muralist collective East Los Streetscapers, created the images, which still live on 35 years later.

The paintings serve as a beautiful snapshot of late-70s American futurism: an era defined by frustration with the state of the world and America's place in it, and yet still optimistic that some forms of technology may help humans thrive in the coming decades.

Yesterday I headed down to snap a few pictures of the place, which you can see below.

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

One of the coolest sections of the mural shows the highway of the future. Here we see the driver of tomorrow zipping along past bubbletop algae farms, clearly inspired by the 1970's obsession with aquaculture and alternative protein.

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

[Update: As has been pointed out in the comments, the painting above appears to show the crew from the Challenger disaster in 1986. I've reached out to the artists to get a timeline of when that side of the building may have been updated.]

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The muralists included an artist's statement near the front entrance of the DMV:

The painting of Moonscapes represents an exposition of thought related to our position in the universe. The mural poses many questions to those who look beyond the graphic design. For instance, Why does the mind's ability to comprehend lifespans that vary from stars to subatomic particles oftentimes come easier than our willingness to understand the ideas of a fellow earthling? Or; How can we allow our society's overburden of advertising belligerence, "labor-saving" electrical nonsense, and strategic arms overkill to take precedence over the care and maintenance of spaceship Earth as we hurtle through the cosmos? It is hoped that questions such as these will stimulate your consciousness as you view "Moonscapes" and as such, enhance your interest and enjoyment.

Not exactly the kind of stuff you'd expect on a government building today, I suppose.

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

So what does the Culver City DMV look like from the inside? Does it have images of futuristic magic highways and lunar colonies all meant to "stimulate your consciousness"?

Sadly, no. It looks like pretty much any other DMV in Los Angeles. But at least now you can make an appointment. What a futuristic world we live in.

The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America


All photos shot by your humble bloggist, Matt Novak