Now on View: Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A

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On display in a Museum Setting for the first time

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 March 9, 2018 to 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.

 “Barbara Carrasco’s L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective provides a powerful opportunity to engage Museum visitors with the nature and culture of Los Angeles,” stated Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of NHMLA. “We are honored to share this moving work, which complements so perfectly our Becoming Los Angeles exhibition in highlighting moments of cultural contact, struggle, innovation and the changing landscape of the city over time.”

The installation will include a 70” digital touchscreen offering visitors the opportunity to explore the vignettes depicted in the mural, as well as historical reference material used by the artist (some of which is from the Museum’s own collections) and behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the mural.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. 

“I am thrilled to see my mural on display at a museum where it will be seen by thousands of school children and visitors curious about our world,” shared artist Barbara Carrasco. “I have many memories of my own visits to the museum in my youth and appreciate the ways NHMLA reaches diverse audiences.”

Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A. was developed by NHMLA’s exhibitions team and History Department Chair Dr. William Estrada with Barbara Carrasco. 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.

 Carrasco spent months researching Los Angeles history—much of it at NHMLA’s History Department— and carefully chose the moments, places and historical figures in the mural, which was designed and created with the help of students from the Summer Youth Employment Program.

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.

Anabel Marquez