Muralism Today: Contemporary Artists Respond to Vida Americana

Dec 2, 2020

This conversation brings together artists Judith Baca, Derek Fordjour, Aliza Nisenbaum, and Juan Sánchez to reflect on Mexican Muralism and the U.S. artists who were inspired by it. They discuss works included in the exhibition Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945 and share how they have each individually been inspired by this period of art history and its relevance today. The discussion is moderated by Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator. 

Judith Baca founded the City of Los Angeles’s first mural program in 1974, which produced over 400 murals and employed thousands of local participants, and evolved into an arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). She continues to serve as SPARC’s artistic director and she is a professor emeritus of the University of California Los Angeles, where she was a senior professor in Chicana/o Studies and World Art and Cultures Departments from 1980 until 2018. 

Derek Fordjour was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to parents of Ghanaian heritage. He has received commissions for public projects from the ‪Whitney and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City for a permanent installation at the ‪145th Street Subway Station in Manhattan. Fordjour frequently serves as a lecturer at institutions and as a core critic at Yale University School of Art. 

Aliza Nisenbaum was born in Mexico City, and is currently based in New York. Her portraits of undocumented Latin American immigrants, and of other distinct communities, are intimate exchanges between herself and her subjects. Her work was included in the Whitney Biennial 2017 and her solo show at Tate Liverpool opens December 2020. She is assistant professor of visual arts at Columbia University School of the Arts. 

Juan Sánchez is an influential American visual artist, and one of the most important Nuyorican cultural figures of the latter twentieth century. He has produced an extensive body of work that addresses social and political issues such as race and class, cultural identity, equality, social justice, and self-determination. Sánchez is a professor of art and art history at Hunter College.