Hitting the Wall
In hopes of broadening the reach of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles the then-president of CalArts, Robert Fitzpatrick, was made director of the Olympic Arts Festival to bring a broad range of high profile performing arts to the city. The program included Pina Bausch’s Wuppertaler Tanztheater, Britain’s Royal Opera of Covent Garden, and the National Theater of Greece, and criticism soon mounted that the program was too Eurocentric. To answer this the International Olympic Organizing Committee commissioned a number of murals across downtown. Among this group was Judy Baca’s 100-foot wide mural, “Hitting the Wall,” painted on a support wall on the 110 freeway near the 4th Street exit. The mural depicts a female runner breaking through the finish line with her arms outstretched, and bringing down a brick wall in the process.
In 1990 Baca’s mural came under the protection of the Visual Artists Rights Act, which was designed to shelter recognized public art from damage, destruction or defacement. Despite this taggers have damaged the work repeatedly, and Caltrans, the State agency responsible for maintaining the freeway and the art, has struggled to find a way to protect the art. One solution has been a policy of “graying out’ defaced sections, essentially whitewashing them, in hopes of preserving the mural from further damage until restoration work can be done. Baca was able to complete some restoration work in 2007 and 2012, but we now learn that the work has been vandalized again, and again “greyed out.”
Baca says, “We need to plan a method of maintaining it and continuing to keep it clean and stop the sort of misogynist acts of young male spray can artists spraying over her legs, so that she can’t run through that wall.”