The Art of Resistance

Mural Tour

LACMA tour led by Vincent Price Art Museum director Pete Galindo featuring murals by Willie Herron and discussion with the artist and a visit to Ramona Gardens to see and discuss murals by Herron, Judith Hernandez, the East Los Streetscrapers and more. Great murals; great discussion led by Pete.


March 17, 2018

Mural Tour With Pete Galindo

The tour was presented by LACMA as an extension of their PST LA/LA exhibition Found in Translation. The fun started as soon as we left LACMA, as leader Pete Galindo talked about the context of the murals, rooted in the Chicano Moratorium of the late ’60s. He stressed that they were more than artistic expression, but also as political broadsides and a form of social media, long before the days of Facebook and Twitter, in a time when the traditional media were largely closed to this minority community and the schools were too often contemptuous of the people they were supposed to be serving. (Pete: I wasn’t really taking notes; please let me know what I got wrong.)

City Terrace murals by Willie Herron

The Wall that Cracked Open

First stop was the alley in the East LA neighborhood City Terrace where artist and punk rock star Willie Herron grew up and where he painted this iconic mural, The Wall That Cracked Open, one night in 1972, with materials he had on hand, on the spot where his 15-year-old brother had just been stabbed 11 times. The mural has been painted over and restored (twice, I think).

Asco: East of No West

The artist joined us and we viewed two other murals in the alley.

Asco: East of No West was commissioned by LACMA in 2011 and depicts a 1972 street performance Walking Mural.

A third mural features Quetzalcoatl, the iconic plumed serpent of prehispanic Mexico. It was partially destroyed by the county’s anti-graffiti brigade.

La Doliente de Hidalgo undergoing restorationAround the corner, Herron and a partner are restoring La Doliente de Hidalgo, (Hidalgo’s Pain), a beautiful piece in the tradition of the great Mexican muralists. The central figure of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s George Washington, is a conscious tribute to the great painting by José Clemente Orozco at the Palaciode Gobierno in Guadalajara. Not only that, its breadth of scope suggests the masters’ work, with icons of the deep past, the suffering of the poor, and a hopeful look forward to the better future.

The mural was painted in 1976 for the facade of a pharmacy that occupied the building. The owner saw the alley murals and wanted Herron to have a more visible canvas. Unfortunately, the very spot where he painted Hidalgo’s face had a structural defect that caused rapid deterioration. He first restored the mural in 1990 for the Los Angeles Festival.

I believe you could walk past this mural every day, and every day you would see something new.

The Soul of the Bario

The Soul of the Bario, by the East Los Streetscrapers (see another great mural by the Streetscrapers at  ¡MURALES REBELDES! LA Chicana/o Murals Under Siege)

Murals of Ramona Gardens

Back on the bus…short drive…walk across pedestrian bridge over the I-10 to Ramona Gardens. Look it up on Wikipedia. You might get the wrong impression; certainly nothing like the full picture. The opening paragraph mentions public housing, the Big Hazard street gang, the Mexican Mafia, illegal drugs. Nothing about the murals, or the community they depict. And quite a few of the gang and violence incidents that the page reports are decades old.

I don’t know, maybe someone should edit this Wikipedia page. Pete?

Toypurina, central figure of ART HEALS mural in Ramona Park

Toypurina, the central figure of the ART HEALS mural at the Ramona Gardens Boys and Girls Club, was an indigenous healer who led a 1785 revolt against the missions.

We had already discussed the LA gang injunction that was declared unconstitutional in December. Pete told how eight members of his family  – everyone but the little children and aged grandparents who had gathered after an athletic awards program here – were arrested under the gang injunction. All charges were dropped, but only after years of legal battles and associated costs. When the injunction was lifted, a major vehicle of police oppression was eliminated.

Left: Soul of the Bario, East Los Streetscrapers

Right: La Virgen de Guadalupe

Adam and Eve

Unfinished (but already beautiful) mural by Willie Herron

Daughters, Mothers and Grandmother of Aztlán

by Judith Hernandez

Smokey, by Salomon Huerta

The Art of Resistance Mural TourEn Memoria de los Homeboys y las Homegirls

Police don’t like this one, and tried to have it removed, but it’s still here.

Named after a local park which is named after LA Mayor Henry T. Hazard (1889-1892), Hazard Grande is the local gang, but listening to Pete, I realized that the relationship between the gang and the neighborhood was much more nuanced than I had thought. If you live in Ramona Gardens and walk across the pedestrian bridge to another neighborhood, you can be jumped by a rival gang whether you have “signed up” or not. If you live in Ramona Gardens, you have friends and relatives who are part of . Hazard Grande.

See also ¡MURALES REBELDES! LA Chicana/o Murals Under Siege, featuring eight murals that have been destroyed, whitewashed, censored and neglected, including The Wall That Cracked Open and L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective.

 L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective by Barbara Carrasco

Carrasco painted this mural in 1981 on commission from the Community Redevelopment Agency for the city’s bicentennial, but they objected to a number of images which they regarded as negative: “The CRA requested cuts of former African American slave-turned-entrepreneur and philanthropist Biddy Mason, the Japanese American internments during World War II and the 1943 Zoot Suit riots, in which Navy personnel attacked Mexican American youth.” LA Times, Sep. 30, 2017After 27 years in a warehouse, a once-censored mural rises in L.A.’s Union Station

It was displayed at Union Station as part of PST LA/LA, and I tried to see it there, but when I finally got to it on the day before it closed, the old ticket concourse was closed for an event, and the mural was covered! Why? Ongoing censorship?

I finally caught up with it at the Natural History Museum, where it is on view through Aug. 19


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