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Artist, writer, and activist, Judy Baca analyzes the ideological function served by traditional forms of public art: monuments that commemorate dominant histories and confirm the power of the state and works that ultimately serve the interests of corporate privatization. She insists that different cultural communities make competing claims to public space and cites examples of this dynamic in Los Angeles. Baca critiques the modernist tradition that celebrates the figure of the exalted individual artist, so that she values non-functionalist art practices. The artist analyzes the presence of this viewpoint in land art practices, in which a “man over nature” attitude toward art making is similar to attitudes that legitimate ecologically damaging practices. Baca also critiques the criminalization of graffiti and describes her own work with youth in Los Angeles.


Judy Baca is the founding father of the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Los Angeles, California, and one of the foremost Chicano muralists in the United States, with numerous solo murals to her credit, as well as her most famous collaborative ongoing project with high school students entitled, “The Great Wall of Los Angeles.” In this catalogue essay for a 1944 group exhibition in collaboration with ADOBE LA at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Baca discusses the major differences between “public art” as executed by mainstream artists and Chicano muralists and graffiti artists. Baca argues that the differences in intent and aesthetic stem from a dominant versus colonized perspective require Chicano muralists to be “socially responsible artists.”

Tere Romo
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Courtesy of Judy Baca, Venice, CA