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Judith F. Baca: The Great Wall of Los Angeles
May 20, 2023 - August 12, 2023Free
Over the course of six blistering summers starting in the late 1970s, Judith F. Baca recruited a small team of artists and over four hundred at-risk youth to create the most significant public art monument of her native city, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. Stretching along the walls of the Tujunga Wash, the landmark mural is a half mile-long celebration of the multi-cultural history of California from the prehistoric era through the 1950s.
The Great Wall of Los Angeles at Jeffrey Deitch brings the viewer behind the scenes of this iconic work of art through the maquettes, sketches and coloration studies that demonstrate the mural’s development process. The exhibition unveils the plans for the extension of The Great Wall by an additional half mile to represent seminal events from the 1960s to 2010s made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation received in 2020.
With The Great Wall, Baca furthered her commitment to proclaim equity for all people and to integrate one’s ethics into their creative expression. She educated and directed her teams through research, sketching and painting the region’s social history from the perspective of women and marginalized communities.
Often realized in impoverished neighborhoods, Baca’s projects revitalize the places that host them through the attention and excitement they generate. Her works stem from the awareness that the land has memory and the urge to express the interactive relationship of history, people and place. Like many of Baca’s celebrated projects, The Great Wall of Los Angeles highlights the dignity of hidden historical precedents, restores connections and stimulates new relationships into the future.
For over forty years, Judy Baca has been innovating and spearheading the practice of working with local communities to create countless social justice, large-scale vibrant works of art. She founded the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). Today, while continuing to serve SPARC as artistic director, Baca is one of the most celebrated Chicana artists, a world-renowned muralist, social activist and UCLA Professor Emeritus.
Baca’s collaborative, portable mural World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear was shown in an enveloping installation at MOCA in 2022. Later this year, Baca’s World Wall will travel to Mexico for an immersive exhibition experience at El Cervantino in Guanajuato, Latin America’s most prominent cultural festival, and her retrospective at The Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City. In March 2023, Baca was awarded the National Medal of Art Recognition by the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, for her monumental impact on public art in America and her collaborative work that “has turned forgotten histories into public memory—pioneering an art form that empowers communities to reclaim public space with dignity and pride.” The Great Wall of Los Angeles at Jeffrey Deitch is Judith F. Baca’s first major exhibition at a commercial gallery.