For the Los Angeles sister blog, María Margarita López went to the March opening of “L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The stories of Latino history are Los Angeles centric, but the impact of this mural's history belongs to the Southwest. The story was first posted at viewfromaloft on March 10.
By María Margarita López
As a Girl Scout walking through the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Barbara Carrasco never dreamed her work would one day grace its walls.
After 25 years of being stored away, Carrasco’s controversial 1981 mural, “L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective,” will be on view in Los Angeles for the second time. It was a highlight of “¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/o Murals Under Siege,” co-curated by LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the California Historical Society as part of the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. It hung in Union Station.
This time it will be featured at the Natural History Museum’s (NHMLA) for “Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A.” It runs from March 9 through August 18, 2018.
Carrasco stood mid-room, absorbing the impact of her mural displayed as she had never seen it before, wrapped around three walls giving it a more intimate feel. She is excited how the piece is uncensored and and it can be seen at the institution that helped make the mural possible in the first place. The late NHMLA curator William Mason helped Carrasco when she first researched subjects in the vignette, and loaned her photographs for source material. Much of the imagery was used in the final work. “This was my chance to show what I wish was in the history books.” said Carrasco.
It was the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the same agency that commissioned it in the first place, that objected to fourteen of the depicted scenes. Some of those stories do not place the city of Los Angeles or the CRA in the best light. Both had histories of injustice in under served communities. These are the L.A. stories you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
“As she grew older she became more aware of her surroundings and really started to open up her eyes regarding the injustices that surrounded her and our communities and many of us growing up.” said Supervisor Hilda Solis of the artist. “I think her art has a way in which she shared those lived experiences meanwhile drawing attention to problems in our society. Barbara is a community champion.”
Supervisor Solis went on to suggest that NHMLA is the best place to give this mural a permanent home.
A highlight of the exhibition is the 70-inch digital touchscreen that details the people, places and events in each of the vignettes. From an image of Juan Francisco Reyes, LA’s first black mayor, to the lynching of 20 Chinese residents to memories of Grand Central Market, Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit," and a group portrait tribute to LA that includes Dolores Huerta, Jane Fonda, Ricardo Montalban, Martin Sheen, Rick James and other artists, activists and politicians.
The interactive touchscreen gives full details of people and place in English and Spanish.
Los Angeles has many untold stories. This mural beautifully depicts Los Angeles’s past, and present with a nod to the future, also including portraits of the interns who helped make the mural. It’s a history lesson worth visiting.
María Margarita López has covered arts and performances for viewfromaloft since 2011. On behalf of viewfromaloft, her photos have also appeared at KCET.org, the LATimes, and Hyperallergic. As a film producer, she is co-founder of AjuuaEntertainment, plus consulted and produced media under her company ValorFilms since 2005.
Above: "Blue Angel: Between Heaven and Earth" at The Neon Museum's Ne10studio.