[LACMA Unframed] Judy Baca, César Chávez, and The Great Wall of Los Angeles

Judy Baca paints the first brushstrokes on a sketch of César Chávez in the exhibition Painting in the River of Angels: Judy Baca and The Great Wall, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 26, 2023–June, 2 2024, © Judith F. Baca, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

March 29, 2024

Dhyandra LawsonAndy Song Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art, Alexander SchneiderAssociate Editor, Deliasofia ZacariasExecutive Assistant and Fellow, Director’s Office

“Hi, César,” Judy Baca said as she began to paint on top of a sketch of César Chávez, inaugurating the exhibition Painting in the River of Angels: Judy Baca and the Great Wall last October. “Welcome to LACMA.” 

These first brushstrokes would commence a mural that will eventually be added to The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a landmark project Baca conceived of as a way to tell California history from the perspective of those who have been erased from it. Over five summers from 1976–83, she collaborated with 400 young people, artists, and community members who comprise the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), a group Baca co-founded. Together, they designed the mural and painted it on the walls of the Tujunga Wash, a tributary of the L.A. River in North Hollywood. For the exhibition Painting in the River of Angels, Baca has transformed LACMA into a studio, where she and SPARC artists are now continuing the story of The Great Wall by painting two new sections for it, the first of which features Chávez, among others.

ésar Chávez was an American labor leader and civil rights activist who organized to better the lives of farm workers working in unsafe conditions for low pay. Alongside fellow organizers and labor groups, he fought to secure better pay and working conditions on agricultural farms and created the United Farm Workers Union. Chávez led strikes and marches and even undertook a personal hunger strike to raise awareness for these causes, changing the lives of countless working people, which is why he is honored on César Chávez Day on March 31.


Read the full article here >