Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

In this essay, muralist Judy Baca details the development of the contemporary Chicano mural movement that began in the 1960s, focusing on Los Angeles as the site of some of the most prolific and innovative mural projects. Baca underscores the deep ties to the community held by Chicano muralists whose main aim was to create public art for the people despite limited resources and minimal financial gain initially. She discusses the unique conditions that made Los Angeles an ideal city for the development of such highly politicized art forms as Muralism. Baca writes that, like many Chicano artists, her art education occurred not in school, albeit within her community. Many common themes of the mural movement, such as the celebration of Chicanos’ pre-Columbian heritage, arguments against subjugation and exploitation by the mainstream, and messages of hope for lives fractured by violence and hardship, constitute a reflection of artists’ connections to their communities. Baca traces how the mural movement spread from Los Angeles throughout the Southwest, gaining financial support as well as galvanizing artists and communities across the region.

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Judy Baca is the founder 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 essay, which was included in a special issue of Imagine: International Chicano Poetry Journal dedicated to Chicano art, she discusses the development of Chicano Muralism in general. Aside from a firsthand perspective, Baca’s essay is noteworthy in her concluding assessment of the state of Chicano Muralism in which she notes the declining participation of the community and the decreasing number of murals, yet she observes an increase in quality and continuing experimentation in portable formats and content.

Researcher
Tere Romo.
Team
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Credit
Courtesy of the Judy Baca Archives at SPARC,Venice, CA
Courtesy of INTAR Theatre, New York, NY