Murals Are Narrative Art, Says Lucas

Judith F. Baca, The Great Wall of Los Angeles 1950: The Development of Suburbia, 1983. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

For those still trying to figure out what "narrative art" is, the Lucas Museum dropped another clue this week. It's acquired Judy Baca's 350-piece archive of drawings, sketches, blueprints, and letters relating to The History of California mural in the Tujunga Wash (a.k.a. "The Great Wall of Los Angeles"). 

The press release identifies the Baca archive as part of "an exemplary group of mural studies and process materials in the Lucas Museum collection," citing works by Thomas Hart Benton, John Biggers, Dean Cornwell, Maxfield Parrish, Ben Shahn, and Charles White. This list ranges from the truly boring (Cornwell) to the belatedly revered (White) to the once ubiquitous and now underappreciated (Shahn).

Not mentioned is the Lucas' futile bid to acquire a Diego Rivera mural from San Francisco. But I guess that hail Mary pass makes more sense in the context of building a muralism collection.

The greatest challenge facing the Lucas is finding things worth doing—that other museums aren't already doing. MOCA showed some of Baca's mural studies in "Under the Big Black Sun" (2011). And yes, MOCA commissioned a Barbara Kruger mural for the Geffen Contemporary. But you can't say that MOCA—or any local museum—engages with the mural movement in any consistent way.