Last week, Chapman University celebrated the opening of “My Barrio: Emigdio Vasquez and Chicana/o Identity in Orange County,” an exhibition that is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. An initiative of The Getty, PST: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious project in which over 70 Southern California institutions explore Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Chapman’s exhibition focuses on the work of prolific artist Emigdio Vasquez, known for his Orange County murals and easel paintings that depict the Chicano experience. The exhibition encompasses Vasquez’s 1979 mural, El Proletariado de Aztlán (located at 442 N Cypress St), as well as exhibitions in the Guggenheim Gallery and Argyros Forum.
Leatherby Libraries’ Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives generously loaned materials for the exhibit in Argyros Forum, located on the second floor in the Doy and Dee Henley Galleria. These materials can be viewed in the fourth case in the Galleria, titled “El Barrio,” which explores local Chicana/o history by focusing on citrus strikes, school segregation, and Orange County muralism. One of the items on loan is the graduate thesis of James Kent, who argued for school segregation by negatively stereotyping Mexican-American home life, work ethic, and culture. The thesis was used against him in the Mendez v. Westminster case of 1947, which successfully argued for the desegregation of four Southern California school districts. This ruling set the stage for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which desegregated public schools across the United States.
Other loaned items include various class portraits depicting students before and after desegregation, as well as a Westminster School District certificate commemorating Mendez v. Westminster. Also on view is the original artwork used for the 2007 United States Postal Service stamp which also commemorated the landmark case.
“My Barrio: Emigdio Vasquez and Chicana/o Identity in Orange County” is on view until January 5, 2018. For more information about Chapman’s participation in PST: LA/LA, visit www.chapman.edu/pst. To learn more about Pacific Standard Time, visit www.pacificstandardtime.org.