L.A.’s Judith Baca wins $50,000 award, breaking ground for mural artists
Los Angeles mural artist Judith Baca was named Tuesday as the first muralist to win a grant from United States Artists since the nonprofit group began giving the $50,000 awards in 2006.
Baca, 69, said it’s the biggest cash award of her career, topping a Guggenheim fellowship she won in 2003. More important, she said, “in a sense, it’s a legitimization of [mural art], which is a profound field in public art. I’m very happy to hear I’m breaking that ground.”
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The award citation said that Baca “has stood for art in service of equity for all people. Her public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and immigrant communities, throughout Los Angeles and increasingly in national and international venues.”
Baca’s works include “The Great Wall of Los Angeles,” which stretches more than half a mile along Tujunga Wash, a concrete-walled flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley. She finished it in 1981, having led a team of about 400 people to create it.
Baca emerged as a public artist in 1974, working under a city-funded murals project; when that was discontinued, she helped to launch the private, nonprofit group Social and Public Art Resource Center (better known as SPARC), which continues to create and restore murals and advocate for their preservation. She is SPARC’s artistic director as well as a professor in UCLA’s department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.
Baca said she might use the money “for my own dreaming” -- that is, to create a work that would be primarily personal instead of representing a social issue. “I’m joking, but I like to think of the idea that it will be totally irrelevant.”
She said she recently received a $30,000 commission from the city of Los Angeles to create murals at four places in Watts -- three looking back at the causes and destruction from the 1965 Watts riots, and the fourth reserved for a vision of the future. She’s also working on a book about her art and life called “Painting in the River of Angels.”
Baca was the only Southern California winner this year among 36 United States Artists prize recipients in the nine categories: architecture and design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and performance, visual arts and traditional arts. Grants totaled $1.8 million and can be used in any way.
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Branden Jacobs-Jenkins leaves a rehearsal of his play “Appropriate,” opening Oct. 4 at the Mark Taper Forum, to eat first with a reporter, then later with his agent and some unspecified Hollywood people, who presumably hope to lure him away from the field and city where he has experienced meteoric success in the last five years. Read more >>(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Soprano Abigail Fischer performs Oct. 7 in the opera “Songs from the Uproar” at REDCAT in Los Angeles.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Moisés Kaufman’s muscular revival of “Bent,” which played at the Mark Taper Forum, opening on July 26, renders what many had written off as a parochial drama about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany into a gripping tale of love, courage and identity. Read review >>(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Malaviki Sarukkai performing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on July 19, 2015. Sarukkai is the best-known exponent of South Indian classical dance.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Bramwell Tovey conducts the L.A. Phil with pianist Garrick Ohlsson in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Hollywood Bowl on July 14, 2015.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Argentine dancer Herman Cornejo performs in the West Coast premiere of “Tango y Yo” as part of the Latin portion of BalletNow.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Jake Shears plays Greta in Martin Sherman’s play “Bent” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles through Aug. 23, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dancers rehearse a one-night-only performance choregraphed by Raiford Rogers, one of L.A.’s most-noted choreographers. This year the dance will be to a new original score by Czech composer Zbynek Mateju.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Mia Sinclair Jenness, left, Mabel Tyler and Gabby Gutierrez alternate playing the title role in the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre. The three are shown during a day at Santa Monica Pier on June 16, 2015.(Christina House / For The Times)
American Contemporary Ballet Company members Zsolt Banki and Cleo Magill perform a dance routine originally done by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This performance was presented as part of “Music + Dance: L.A.” on Friday, June 19, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Miguel, a Grammy-winning guitarist, producer, singer and lyricist, is photographed in San Pedro on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. His new album “Wildheart,” explores L.A.’s “weird mix of hope and desperation.”(Christina House / For The Times)
Los Angeles-born artist Mark Bradford is photographed in front of “The Next Hot Line.” This piece is part of his show “Scorched Earth,” installed at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, June 11, 2015.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles Opera concluded its season with “The Marriage of Figaro,” with Roberto Tagliavini as Figaro and Pretty Yende as Susanna, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
“Trinket,” a monumental installation by Newark-born, Chicago-based artist William Pope.L, features an American flag that is 16 feet tall and 45 feet long. The work is on display at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA through June 28.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Alex Knox, from left, Carolyn Ratteray, Lynn Milgrim and Paige Lindsey White in “Pygmalion” in spring 2015 at the Pasadena Playhouse.(Mariah Tauger / For The Times)
On March 17, Google celebrated the addition of more than 5,000 images to its Google Street Art project with a launch party at the Container Yard in downtown Los Angeles.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Ric Salinas, left, Herbert Siguenza and Richard Montoya, of the three-man Latino theater group Culture Clash, brought their “Chavez Ravine: An L.A. Revival” to the Kirk Douglas Theatre to mark the group’s 30th anniversary. The play ran from Feb. 4 through March 1.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
“Saturday Nigh Live” alum Darrell Hammond‘s one-man show, “The Darrell Hammond Project,” ran at the La Jolla Playhouse from Jan. 31 through March 8.(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
Panels of three to five experts, including at least one past winner in each category, sifted through more than 400 nominees across the categories.
The United States Artists awards are funded by an endowment and annual donations; grants have totaled more than $20 million in the last 10 years. Artists at all career stages are selected for “the quality, imagination and enduring potential of their work.”
Other 2015 winners include New York-based composer David Lang, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner and co-founder of the Bang on a Can collective whose music has been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Long Beach Opera; and Mickalene Thomas, a painter and filmmaker from Brooklyn whose first solo exhibition, “Origin of the Universe,” was shown in 2012 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
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