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In this document, muralist Judith Baca discusses the development of the Chicano mural movement, brought to light in conditions of unrest and injustice in Los Angeles. Baca underlines the unique physical characteristics of Los Angeles that facilitated muralism, as well as the influence of a high concentration of Mexican-Americans looking for a means of organizing and self-expression. She addresses the new visual language that accompanied the mural movement, which celebrated the pre-Columbian heritage of the Chicano community and made the murals accessible to their intended audience by way of the use of relevant symbolism and thematic content. Baca discusses the muralist’s dual roles as artist and community organizer, generally possessing great social influence. Baca concludes with an outline of the Chicano mural movement’s development, from inception as a project with minimal support to a highly respected and valued socio-cultural phenomenon.
Judith (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. This essay was included in the group exhibition catalog Chicano Expressions: A New View in American Art at INTAR Latin American Gallery in 1986 in New York, and organized by its director Inverna Lockpez. Baca was the curator of the mural component of the event; other curators were Tomás Ybarra-Frausto (Gráfica/Urban Iconography), Kay Turner (Altars), and Inverna Lockpez (Visual Arts). Besides providing a valuable historical overview and visual examples of murals from California, Baca’s essay also offers a personal artistic perspective from one of the key muralists of Los Angeles’s Chicano mural movement. According to art historian Jacinto Quirarte, it was the first show of Chicano art on the East Coast of the United States.