A stroll through the lobby of the Dallas Museum of Art turns into a nighttime lowrider cruise through the streets of East Los Angeles with the immersive Guadalupe Rosales mural, Drift on a memory. The fresco is visible until July 10.
The mural was commissioned for the museum’s 153-foot thoroughfare as a tribute to the history and culture of Latinx communities in the United States.
“Museums should be inclusive places. You really have to be able to reflect what is our culture and our living culture. We are custodians of time, we are custodians of treasures, but we have to find ways to connect with people on their own terms,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, museum director Eugene McDermott.
The lowrider culture has its origins in Los Angeles from the mid-1920sand century. Lowriders customize cars with elaborate designs, lavish interiors and spectacular finishes, proudly cruising the main streets. “Lowrider culture is intertwined with Latinx culture as cruising, parties and other forms of socializing, also here in Dallas, especially on Jefferson Boulevard,” said Dr. Vivian Li, Curator of Contemporary Art Lupe Murchison of the museum and coordinator of this project.
Rosales began sailing as a teenager in the 1990s. The multidisciplinary artist documents Latinx experiences in America through photographs, memorabilia and artifacts, creating the archival projects Veteranas and Rucas and Map of Point on Instagram.
Drift on a memory is his first fresco. “She strives to reframe Latinx culture in the mural as a celebration of the beauty and artistry of lowrider culture,” Li said.
To create this fresco, Rosales wanted to work with local artists. She teamed up with Dallas lowrider artist Lokey Calderon to create the mural’s pinstripes. Calderon recruited Fort Worth mural artist Sarah Ayala for the project.
The mural, with its disco ball and vibrant hues of red, orange, yellow and hot pink resembling a brilliant Texas sunset, evokes the cars’ intricate customizations. “At first it was really difficult because we wanted to do all the traditional stuff, which is the airbrush materials that Lokey would use on a car,” Rosales said. “So we really had to think of a new way to execute this project, but also use materials that are water-based paints.”
Rosales created a soundscape for the mural, recording different types of music merging and fading with the sounds of cars rumbling on the cruise. “I was with friends and family, on a cruise and I just had this idea to bring this sound into space just to give the audience this sense of sound, what it’s like to be on a cruise “, said Rosales.
Rosales also incorporates two light sculptures featuring his photographs as well as photographs of the Calderon family. “I wanted to bring the idea of multiple exposure photography and memory and time,” Rosales said. “I don’t see memory and time as linear, but something that comes as a constellation, in pockets.”
While the mural depicts the exterior paint job of a lowrider car, a window mimics the interior. “I had this vision of converting this window into the interior of a car so that everything you see here, even the upholstery, is exactly as it is designed for a car,” Rosales said.
Rosales recounts the criminalization of cruising with police putting up “no cruising” signs on streets where lowriders were known to congregate. This criminalization is the reason why Rosales wants to create these cultural archives. “I’m also interested in celebrating,” Rosales said. “Not just staying in dark, negative trauma, but how do you turn that into something positive and continue to celebrate and continue to grow and feel empowered by it?”
During the installation of the mural, Rosales could hear comments from onlookers, some asking about lowrider culture and others acknowledging something that is part of their modern cultural heritage. Being in an institution like the Dallas Museum of Art is an important moment of representation. “It’s the lowrider aesthetic and we never imagined being here,” Rosales said.
A large mirror hangs above the hallway, acting as a rearview mirror. Visitors can take photos of themselves enveloped by the mural and become part of the lowrider experience that Rosales wants to share. “It has been truly inspiring to see the love, care and dignity she brings to representing her community and cultural contributions,” Li said.