[LACMA Unframed] New Acquisition: Judy Baca’s “Hitting the Wall: Women in the Marathon”

Judith F. Baca, Hitting the Wall: Women in the Marathon (detail), 1984, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Drs. Rebecka and Arie Belldegrun through the 2024 Collectors Committee, © 1984 Judith F. Baca, image courtesy of the SPARC & Judy Baca Archive

May 2, 2024, Deliasofia ZacariasDirector’s Office Executive Assistant and Fellow, Acquisitions

One of America’s leading visual artists and LACMA’s 2023 Art+Film Honoree, Los Angeles–based Chicana muralist Dr. Judith F. Baca has been creating public art for over five decades. Striking in size and subject matter, Baca’s murals bring art to where people live and work. In 1974, Baca founded the City of Los Angeles’s first mural program, which produced over 400 murals, employed thousands of local participants, and evolved into the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) arts organization. 

Shortly after completing the first half-mile of her best-known work, The Great Wall of Los Angeles mural in the San Fernando Valley, Baca participated in the Olympic Arts Festival directed by Robert Fitzpatrick, then president of California Institute of the Arts. Recognizing the importance of muralism to the city as a communal and accessible art form, the Olympic Mural Commission organized artists, including Baca, to paint 10 murals on the retaining walls of the downtown freeway system to prepare for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Fitzpatrick saw the Los Angeles freeways as the route to the Olympics and worthy of art, just as the paths in Olympia, Greece, once had statues.


While Baca continues to serve as SPARC’s Artistic Director and can be seen currently at LACMA expanding The Great Wall of Los Angeles, these rare preliminary drawings of Hitting the Wall demonstrate Baca’s draftsmanship and provide original documentation of one of the city’s most iconic public works of art. This is the first group of works by Baca to enter the museum’s collection and join a handful of works commemorating not only the Olympics but also artistic interventions in the fight for equity. As Los Angeles prepares to host the 2028 Olympics, the drawings provide LACMA a wonderful opportunity to continue developing its permanent collection of Los Angeles–based Chicana artists and to further recognize muralism as an art form that has shaped the city’s urban landscape. 

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