The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) will present Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A. featuring Chicana artist Barbara Carrasco’s landmark 1981 mural L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective, on view today until August 18, 2018.
This is the first time the full length of the mural, which portrays the city’s history through a series of vignettes woven into the flowing hair of la reina de Los Ángeles (the queen of Los Angeles), will be shown inside a museum setting, presented across three walls of an intimate gallery to bring visitors eye-level with the 80-foot panoramic work. The rarely exhibited mural was most recently on view last fall at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles as part of the Getty-led initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. I didn’t get to see it then but plan on heading out for this soon.
The installation will include a 70” digital touchscreen to explore the vignettes depicted in the mural, as well as historical reference material used by the artist (some of which is from the Museum’s own collections) and behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the mural. All of the exhibition’s content is bilingual, in English/Spanish.
Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A. was developed by NHMLA’s exhibitions team and History Department Chair Dr. William Estrada with Barbara Carrasco, who is loaning L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective’s forty-three acrylic on wood and Masonite panels to the museum for the exhibition. The exhibition title references the mural’s censorship by the former Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), who originally commissioned Carrasco to create the mural for the city’s 1981 bicentennial, but halted the project when the artist refused to remove 14 depictions of historical moments the Agency deemed too controversial. These included scenes referencing the 1871 Chinese massacre, internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 and, ironically, the whitewashing of David Alfaro Siqueiros’s outdoor mural América Tropical (1932) overlooking Olvera Street.
I am particularly interested in these as a new resident of the city. Also meaningful to me is that this mural was originally made the year I was born! That’s a lot of this city’s history I need to catch up on.
Scenes range from prehistoric La Brea Tar Pits to the founding of the city in 1781, and the 1847 Treaty of Cahuenga ending the California phase of the United States–Mexico war of 1846-1848. It features both landmarks Angelenos will recognize—the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, City Hall, Angel’s Flight, Union Station and the Hollywood sign—and parts of the city no longer visible, such as Bunker Hill homes before urban redevelopment. Portraits of the Gabrieleño/Tongva people, Mexican folk hero Tiburcio Vásquez, former slave and entrepreneur Biddy Mason, Pío Pico, Chinese railroad workers, Latino film stars Leo Carrillo and Dolores del Río, Los Angeles Times journalist Ruben Salazar, Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax, Mayor Tom Bradley, labor leader Dolores Huerta and playwright Luis Valdez are commemorated in the mural.
*Assistance on copy and image provided by NHMLA*