Walking with a cane due to a recent knee replacement, Judy Baca entered the Resnick Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art wearing paint-splattered white overalls and colorful Vans sneakers — ready to work on the latest installment of the “Great Wall of Los Angeles” to be completed in time for the 2028 Olympics.
Baca, 77, began The Great Wall in 1974 in the San Fernando Valley when she founded the first mural program in Los Angeles, which morphed into the Social and Public Art Resource Center, (SPARC). Her half-mile-long mural, created in “social realism” style, is on the walls along part of the Los Angeles River, depicting the history of California through the eyes of women, Latinos and other minorities.
As Baca says, “The Great Wall depicts a correction to what had been taught in early American history books. It tells stories from the perspective of minorities and children of those minorities who lived them.”
In creating the new sections for the Great Wall, which will be a mile long when finished, Baca and her team won’t have to endure 115-degree summer days painting on concrete in the San Fernando Valley. The new sections will be completed at LACMA on canvas-like material that will later be transferred to the walls of the river.
The new paintings will span the 1960s. The first panel will depict moments in the Chicano Movement including the farmworker movement and the East Los Angeles student walkouts. The second panel will feature the Watts Rebellion, Watts Renaissance and community organizing by the Black Panthers.
When Baca began her career she never thought she would “make monuments” like The Great Wall. But when she went to Mexico to study art from 1976 to 1978, she learned the Fibonacci method of composition, and her vision became stronger.
She realized, “I’m in charge and the whole thing is submitted … to the will of a woman.”
From October 26, 2023, through June 2, 2024, visitors to LACMA can watch Baca and her team members from SPARC create the two new mural sections which will later be added to the Great Wall.