Coming of age during the socio-political mobilizations known as the Chicano Movement, Judithe Hernández is a visual artist who has found inspiration in poetry, urban vernacular aesthetics, feminism, classical Greek sculpture, Mesoamerican cosmology, and biblical narratives. She has also had a profound influence on Chicano art and contemporary Los Angeles visual aesthetics as a member of the celebrated East Los Angeles artist collective Los Four; and through her public art by creating a new visual library for Los Angeles.
Hernández first won acclaim as a muralist during the early period of Los Angeles public art (1969-1983) developing a visual image bank that continues to influence contemporary artists. Her public art mixed classical figurative compositions with urban calligraphy, thereby pushing the boundaries or distinctions between fine art, graffiti, and folk art. In 1983, her solo exhibition at the Cayman Gallery in New York City's SoHo district made her the first Chicana to extend her artistic reach beyond the West coast. She continued to collaborate with Los Four for a decade (1974-1984), participating in ten major exhibitions with them. Hernández and Carlos Almaraz also worked together on murals for the United Farm Workers and the Ramona Gardens Housing Projects in East Los Angeles. Scholars such as Tomás Ybarra Frausto and Richard Griswold de Castillo have noted about Hernández and Los Four, “they legitimized” Chicano art and produced “exceptional bodies” of work. The international significance of her work was acknowledged in the 1990 exhibition, Les Démon des Anges. Hernández was one of sixteen artists selected for this traveling exhibition that toured France, Sweden, and Spain.
The major media in which Hernández continues to work is pastel on paper. Because most scholars emphasize the political context of Chicano art, few recognize the ways in which Los Angeles Chicano art fits within the larger context of the western aesthetic tradition. Hernández is clearly in visual conversation with Renaissance masters and with classical Greek and Roman sculpture. Her drawings consistently portray the universal human figure, rather than an individual portrait, and emphasize a visual vocabulary of human struggles over love, trauma, memory, and Christianity’s interest in human ecstasy and grace. Her significant record of exhibition is complemented by a robust repository of her work in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; the Bank of American Collection, New York; the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago; the El Paso Museum of Art; and the two major public repositories of Chicano art, the Universities of California at Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. The Smithsonian has also collected her oral history and her work has been acquired for several important private collections.
In 2011, her contributions to the art of Los Angeles were honored in the sweeping arts initiative, Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980. Hernández’s was among a select group of artists whose work was honored in multiple PST exhibitions, as well as a catalog essay, a public television documentary, and an installation about Los Angeles murals at LACMA. In October 2012, she was one of the artists who will inaugurate the new América Tropical Interpretive Center which honors the Mexican master David Alfaro Siqueiros and his mural masterpiece and begin her tenure as a recipient of the prestigious C.O.L.A. Fellowship (City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowship) for 2013.
~Karen Mary Davalos, Ph.D., Loyola Marymount University
2 0 1 5 E X H I B I T I O N S
Chicana/o Biennial, MACLA, San Jose, CA
L.A. ART SHOW, Los Angeles Convention Center
MIRADAS: Ancient Roots in Modren and Contemporary Mexican Art, Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, Utah Museum of Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT
Dia de los Muertos: Love Never Dies, National Mexican Museum of Art, Chicago, IL
Veterano Cars: Carros, Caruchas, y Carchangas, Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton, CA
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR
P E R M A N E N T C O L L E C T I O N S
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
Bank of America Collection, New York, NY
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX
Latino Museum of History, Art, & Culture, Los Angeles, CA
Max Factor Collection, Los Angeles, CA
National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL
Otis College of Art and Design Collection, Los Angeles, CA
Pennslyvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA
Radio Bilingüe Collection, Fresno, CA
United Farm Workers Union, La Paz, CA
University of California at Los Angeles, Chicano Studies Research Center
University of California at Santa Barbara, Chicano Studies Department and the Davidson Library, Special Collections, CEMA
Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL