George Lucas’s Museum Has Acquired an Archive Tracing the Creation of Judy Baca’s Great Wall, One of the Biggest Murals in the World
Baca created the work, which runs nearly a half mile across, with the help of more than 400 people over the course of nearly a decade.
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which is under construction in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Exposition Park, has acquired the massive archive documenting the creation of artist Judith F. Baca’s monumental mural, The History of California (1976–84).
Beloved by locals and known popularly as The Great Wall of Los Angeles, the work is painted directly on the concrete sides of the Tujunga Wash, a control channel that serves as part of the drainage system of L.A.
Baca created the work with the help of more than 400 people under the direction of the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). Measuring half a mile across and 13 feet tall, it is one of the longest murals in the world.
According to SPARC, Baca was contacted in 1974 by the Army Corps of Engineers, which asked her to make the mural as part of a city-wide beautification project.
The initial plan was to document the state’s pre-history (including the age of the dinosaurs) through 1910. But Baca insisted on continuing the narrative and working with a team of 80 local youths, 10 artists, and five historians. The project and its team eventually swelled to include hundreds of participants.
The “Mural Makers” added hundreds of images, each depicting a decade of the state’s history, and the trials its citizens faced.
Historic events including the internment of Japanese American citizens, the displacement of Indigenous communities, the events of Black Friday in 1959 (when sheriffs expelled Mexican Americans from the Chavez Ravine area), and moments in the history of the Gay Rights Movements are all depicted.
The archive contains hundreds of documents including sketches, site plans, blueprints, and correspondence between Baca and mural contributors. The archive will join similar caches of papers housed in the Lucas collection that detail projects by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Maxfield Parrish, and Charles White.
“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,” Lucas Museum chief curator Pilar Tompkins Rivas said in a statement. “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.”
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