If you have time to see one exhibit this month, Guadalupe Rosales’s “Legends Never Die, A Collective Memory” should be it. The exhibit, which opened on campus at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery on Friday, Jan. 25, brings together photos and artifacts from several people and generations, creating a bittersweet sentimentality and a longing for the past.
The project has been in the making since 2015 and is an archival piece, featuring photographs and memorabilia connected to Chicanx culture in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. The exhibit uses black-lighting, illuminating the exhibit with a dim purple glow hearkening back to the warmth of community and the effortless coolness of a 1990s Los Angeles. It is Rosales’s gift for evoking a warm nostalgia that is most amazing.
Rosales moved from East Los Angeles to New York when she was 20 years old with only a stack of photos in her possession. She started her Instagram because “everything online felt unrelatable” to her experience. Rosales hoped to capture feelings and create an immersive experience, and social media allowed her to create something more unique and personal. People contacted her through Instagram and donated videos and physical materials to her show. It’s hard to believe that such unabashedly personal and evocative work was made as a collective.
For Brandon Pita ‘22, who grew up in Chicago’s Latinx community, the photos brought him back to his home. He found the exhibit “inspiring,” saying that his mother has pictures that could easily have been in the exhibit. Many photos feature teens with moussed-up hair, thick lashes, and crimson red lips lined with black liner—an aesthetic reminiscent of a Los Angeles of the past. But Rosales’ work is more than aestheticism and igniting memory; the artist says her art is “about questioning institutions.”
Rosales tells the story of her community through these photographs, a community that has often been unrepresented or misrepresented in mass media. Rosales’s works focus on Los Angeles in the 90’s—a decade of chaos and culture, natural disasters, and anti-immigration politics. She references the controversial Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative in California to cut off state services such as non-emergency health care and public education to undocumented immigrants. The measure passed by referendum but was later repealed for being unconstitutional.
Events like this sparked something in Rosales. To her, they signified a disconnect between what she knew her community to be and how that community was viewed by others as a result of media. She hopes that building this archive will be one step towards remedying that. “Legends Never Die” will be on display at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery until the end of February. See more of her work on her Instagram.
Written by Eniola Ajao ’21. Edited by Andrew Nguyen ’19.
Photos by Cole Sansom ’19.