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 and is credited with creating some of the earliest feminist works about woman's, migrants, and Mexican Revolutionary soldaderas. Her public art mixed classical and 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. Armando Vazquez echoes what scholars such as Tomás Ybarra Frausto, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, 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 first acknowledged in the 1990 exhibition, Les Démon des Anges. Hernández was one of sixteen artists selected for this traveling exhibition that toured France, Belgium, 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 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia; the Bank of American Collection; 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 Getty Foundation sponsored arts initiative, Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980. Hernández 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. Selected as a recipient of the prestigious C.O.L.A. Fellowship (City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowship) for 2012-2013, she followed the fellowship exhibition by beginning work on her commission from the LACMTA to create a twenty-four piece mosaic glass installation for the Downtown Santa Monica terminus station of the new Expo Line which opened in May 2016. In 2017, she will once again have work in multiple exhibitions of the Getty Foundation sponsored Pacific Standard Time LA/LA which explores the influence of Latin American art on the art of Los Angeles. In May, 2018 she will be the first U.S. born Latina to be honored with a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA.
~Karen Mary Davalos, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
2 0 1 7 E X H I B I T I O N S
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA - Judithe Hernández & Patssi Valdez: ONE PATH Two Journeys, Millard Sheets Art Center, Pomona, CA
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA - Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915-1985, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN
Miradas: Ancient Roots in Contemporary Mexican Art, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV
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
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, 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