By Shana Nys Dambrot
The first clue you’re in for something special with Judy Baca: Memorias de Nuestra Tierra, a Retrospective at the Museum of Latin American Art, is the color. Emanating from the work and radiating from the walls, a supercharged, warm and vibrating palette scheme takes over every bit of wall and space; it truly is like walking into one of the paintings. Glowing yellow and deep crimson, royal blue and sun-kissed teal, fertile green and amber earth, highlights of lavender – across landscapes, historical vignettes, intimate personal portraits, performative and symbolic self-portraits, visionary scenes of spirit and magic, apparitions of ancestors, injustices, folklore, feminism, humor, protest and politics, Judy Baca’s palette is a prismatic experience.
Most people who are aware of Baca’s decades of activity in the Los Angeles art and social justice worlds – and especially at their intersection – know her from The Great Wall project. This half mile long mural, which is still very much in progress, is sited along the Tujunga Wash in the San Fernando Valley, and chronicles the history of California from prehistory until… Well, the goal is to catch up to the present, but right now it’s completed through the 1950s and the ‘60s are in the planning stages. The mural pays special attention to the lesser-known histories of the ethnic groups who historically and currently live here. The exhibition gets to the Wall in dramatic, impressive fashion. But first, it asks viewers to start at the beginning – in Baca’s painting studio.
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