Judy Baca: Memorias de Nuestra Tierra, a Retrospective

Co-Curated by Guest Curator Alessandra Moctezuma and MOLAA Chief Curator Gabriela Urtiaga

July 2021 – January 2022

Judy Baca: Memorias de Nuestra Tierra, a Retrospective is the first comprehensive retrospective of the work of the internationally renowned Chicana muralist, public intellectual and community activist, Judy Baca. Baca is a painter and muralist, community arts pioneer, and scholarly-educator who has been teaching in the UC system for more than 30 years. As founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974 – which evolved into the non-profit Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) – Baca has been engaged in the creation of sites of public memory within historically disenfranchised communities since 1976. She continues to serve as SPARC’s artistic director while employing digital technology to co-create collaborative murals at the UCLA/SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab.

During the past decade, art as a vehicle for protest and social justice has gained incredible momentum and salience; it is now part of any comprehensive discussion about contemporary arts in the U.S. However, in mid-1970s Los Angeles, the art of “contestation” and place-making was already finding voice in Judy Baca’s work. During this tumultuous decade, Baca pioneered a collaborative model that enabled young people to weave “hidden” histories of their underrepresented communities into monumental public artworks. These murals celebrated their people’s contributions and articulated their stories and struggles. For the disenfranchised people living in the greater Los Angeles basin, in California, and in the larger U.S., Baca’s works became epic narratives, connecting youth with their diverse heritage and creating new “sites of public memory.”

In our galleries, the exhibition is divided thematically into three sections that present different aspects of Baca’s artistic production. Gallery A is the Womanist Gallery, wherein we see female power presented. This gallery delves with greater insight into Baca’s more intimate history, and her very personal explorations of feminism, gender, and body politics. This gallery also focuses on Baca’s personal role models and their place in Baca’s history, upbringing, and understanding of the world. The Womanist Gallery lastly, features never-before-seen, surrealist ink drawings by Judy Baca, exploring her struggle with personal relationships.

Gallery B will feature a Baca Public Art Survey, exploring her pivotal and career-defining work through the Social and Public Arts Resource Center, an organization Judy founded in 1976. In a city and time where community public art was dominated by men, Baca demonstrated that a woman could not only produce at large scale, but that decades later would become the leading innovator in this media.

In Gallery C, visitors will discover the history of Baca’s first masterpiece, the Great Wall of Los Angeles. This half mile long mural occupies the Tujunga Wash in the San Fernando Valley. The mural tells the story of California from prehistoric times to the 1950s and takes special care in presenting the lesser-known histories of the ethnic groups who inhabit this state. To understand the immensity of this project, viewers are invited to participate in an immersive audiovisual experience of the monumental piece.