The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, currently under construction in Exposition Park, has announced its acquisition of the archive related to the artist Judith F. Baca’s monumental mural The History of California (1976–84), popularly known as The Great Wall of Los Angeles.
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, currently under construction in Exposition Park, has announced its acquisition of the archive related to the artist Judith F. Baca’s monumental mural The History of California (1976–84), popularly known as The Great Wall of Los Angeles. Created in the Tujunga Wash, a flood control channel northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the half-mile-long artwork traces a history of California, from prehistory through the mid-20th century. The mural depicts well-known historical narratives as well as often-overlooked events such as the displacement of Indigenous communities, the internment of Japanese American citizens, and the expulsion of Mexican Americans from Chavez Ravine. The mural is epic in scale and was epochal in impact, representing an important shift in determining whose stories are told publicly and who gets to tell them.
“We are thrilled to house The History of California Archive. This monumental work by an iconic artist contributes to shaping a more inclusive view of life in the United States and California. This incredible repository uniquely positions the Lucas Museum to illustrate the significance of public murals to storytelling,” said Lucas Museum Director and CEO Sandra Jackson-Dumont.
The History of California Archive is as much a record of Baca’s community-oriented practice and commitment to public art as it is a document of the making of the landmark mural. The archive houses more than 350 objects related to the mural’s development and execution, including blueprints, concept drawings, mural studies, site plans, sketches, and notes and correspondence. In developing the mural’s narrative and visual content, Baca had many collaborators, from scholars and historians to artists to community leaders and local youth, and the archive comprises the materials that Baca herself created out of these partnerships. In-depth holdings include detailed plans for the mural’s final 1,050 feet, which span the 1930s through the 1960s and chronicle industrialization, the Civil Rights movement, and the development of California culture, from the rise of Hollywood to early rock and roll.
“Judy Baca is one of the most important Los Angeles artists working today, and we are thrilled to bring this important archive of her work into our collection,” said Pilar Tompkins Rivas, the museum’s chief curator and deputy director of curatorial and collections. “The History of California is a key work in the history of mural making and public art as well as an important Los Angeles landmark. We hope the archive will inspire audiences to dig deeper into the storytelling power of murals and think about how their own stories may or may not fit into dominant narratives.”
The History of California Archive joins an exemplary group of mural studies and process materials in the Lucas Museum collection, including works by Thomas Hart Benton, John Biggers, Dean Cornwell, Maxfield Parrish, Ben Shahn, and Charles White. Together, these materials serve as an introduction to 20th-century mural making in the United States, with Baca’s archive providing vital insight into a work created under the direction of a Chicana artist. The museum’s mural process materials will enable audiences to access site-specific works as well as make new visual and thematic connections among them.
To celebrate the acquisition, Judith F. Baca will join the Lucas Museum’s Sandra Jackson-Dumont and Pilar Tompkins Rivas for a free vitual public program, which will take place on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
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