Exploring Life, Work of Mexican Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros

Top Latino artists and historians celebrate the Summer of Siqueiros as ground-breaking nears at site of lost mural, June 18

Published on LatinoLA: June 11, 2010

Exploring Life, Work of Mexican Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros

Prominent Latino artists, authors and historians will gather June 18, 2010 for the first in a series of multi-media lectures exploring the life and work of David Alfaro Siqueiros, the famed Mexican muralist whose bold and politically impassioned works have influenced artists around the globe for three quarters of a century. The first of three panel discussions -- "America Tropical At Last" -- will focus on the controversial Depression-era work by the master muralist that is scheduled to open to the public for the first time in more than 70 years.

Panelists, including Los Angeles mural advocate Judy Baca, will discuss the ground-breaking techniques and provocative message of "America Tropical," the 18 x 80-foot masterpiece painted by Siqueiros in 1932 in the heart of Olvera Street. The mural was completely whitewashed six years later. The panel will discuss the artist's lasting impact on Chicano artists in Los Angeles, who first rallied to restore the censored work during the cultural awakening of the 1960s.
The lecture series will be held at the Mexican Cultural Institute, just a few doors away from the mural site on Olvera Street. After a painstaking conservation effort by the Getty Conservation Institute during the 1990s and an arduous fund-raising effort, construction is expected to begin this summer on a viewing platform overlooking the site on a second-story wall of the Italian Hall, and an interpretive center in an adjacent building. Once completed in 2011, the project will allow visitors to view the original mural for the first time since it was covered over in 1938. The interpretive center -- located on the first floor of the restored Sepulveda House -- will offer a multi-media exhibition on the historic and artistic significance of Siqueiros and his mural.

Panelists also include veteran artist John Valadez and two art historians Raul Herrera and Isabel Rojas-Williams. The fifth panelist is Luis Garza, a writer and documentarian who met and photographed Siqueiros in the 1970s. Garza is also curating a world-premiere exhibition at The Autry National Center, entitled "Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied," which features rarely seen work by the artist, who died in Mexico in 1974.

Two other panels are scheduled in the summer series: "Artist Warrior" on July 16, also at the Mexican Cultural Institute, and "Freedom of Speech and Censorship" on August 20, at the offices of MALDEF, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Below are short bios of artists participating in the June 18 panel, to be moderated by artist Raoul De La Sota. For more information, a full listing of events celebrating the Summer of Siqueiros, please visit http://www.amigosdesiqueiros.org.

WHAT: Lecture "America Tropical At Last"
WHERE: Mexican Cultural Institute Art Gallery (downstairs), 125 Paseo de la Plaza, Olvera Street
WHEN: Friday, June 18, 2010, 7:00PM to 9:00PM
CONTACT: 213 624-3660


Judy Baca is a world-renowned painter and muralist, community arts pioneer, scholar and educator who has been teaching art in the UC system (including at UCLA) for over 20 years. She was the founder of 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). She continues to serve as its artistic director and focuses her creative energy in the Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab, employing digital technology to co-create collaborative mural designs.

John Valadez is a realist painter and muralist who takes as his subject the urban landscape and people of Los Angeles, where he was born and raised. Initially known as an added member of the seminal LA arts group Los Four, Valadez has come to be known as the foremost proponent of figuration among Chicano artists. He has participated in the most important exhibitions of Chicano and Latino art and has received international acclaim for his singular murals, including Broadway Mural (1981) in downtown Los Angeles and A Day in El Paso del Norte (1993) in the federal building in El Paso, Texas.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Isabel Rojas-Williams has lived in Los Angeles for the past 37 years and been active social and political movements related to art. She has taught art history at California State University, Los Angeles, where she earned her masters degree, and has curated multiple exhibitions highlighting the city's rich legacy of urban art. Her thesis: "Los Angeles Street Mural Movement, 1930-2009" is in the collection of the Sala de Arte P??blico Siqueiros in Mexico City. Rojas-Williams has received various awards for her curatorial, civic, and creative contributions to the community. She recently returned from Chile, where she lectured on David Alfaro Siqueiros's 1941 mural "Death to the Invader" in Chill?ín.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Raoul de la Sota earned his Master of Arts degree at UCLA and became the first Chicano artist to receive a Fulbright Fellowship. He spent his fellowship year studying in Peru, a country whose traditions, beliefs and sacred mountain landscapes have had an enduring impact on his life and his art. De la Sota has shown his work in solo exhibitions at home and abroad, from Los Angeles to Lima, and has participated in group shows at several prestigious venues, including the Gallery of the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. and the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood. He often leads travel groups to Peru, Spain and Mexico seeking a better understanding of Hispanic and Pre-Hispanic sites and their cosmological beliefs.

RAUL HERRERA Raul Herrera Is a community artist, educator, and organizer. His photography has been published by the J Paul Getty Museum in "Picture LA: Landmarks of a New Generation". He obtained a Master's degree in Chicana/o Studies from Cal State Univ. Northridge. In 2004 as graduate student, he interned with Art Historian Dr. Shifra Goldman and scholar Dr. Margarita Nieto. He also was one of the historian interns for Luis Garza's pilot project on Siqueiros & America Tropical. His thesis is titled "Reading the Pre-Columbian Signs of David Alfaro Siqueiros' Mural America Tropical: A Reinterpretation."

LUIS C. GARZA Luis C. Garza began his career as a photojournalist recording the tumultuous social events of the 1960s and 1970s. He went on to a successful career as as a writer, producer and director of television programs, including an Emmy award-winning series and over 50 documentaries and primetime shows. Garza has also served as coordinator of important Los Angeles art festivals, including a two-week gala celebration of 1,500 artists from five continents at 100 venues. As a consultant for the Getty Conservation Institute from 1994-97, he was a key liaison in the effort in the restoration of Siqueiros' Olvera Street mural, "Am?®rica Tropical." Currently, Garza is curating an exhibition about Siqueiros at the Museum of the American West during the fall of 2010.

PROF. ARMANDO VAZQUEZ-RAMOS: Born in Mexico City and raised in East Los Angeles since age 12, Professor Armando Vazquez-Ramos became an activist in the Chicano Movement through the 1968 ELA High School Walkouts. As a student leader in 1969, he helped establish the Chicano Studies department at California State University, Long Beach, where he teaches today and serves as the coordinator of the California-Mexico Project. In addition, Armando is Board President of the Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles and Co-Chair of Amigos de Siqueiros, the non-profit organization that will manage and sustain the City of L.A.'s Siqueiros Interpretive Center, to showcase Maestro David Alfaro Siqueiros "America Tropical" mural at the city's birthplace on Olvera Street.

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