Since 2015, the Dallas Museum of Art has invited artists to create site-specific murals along the museum’s 153-foot-long walkway for its Concourse Mural series.
Los Angeles-based artist Guadalupe Rosales has transformed the space, now in its fifth iteration, into a lowrider’s fantasyland: an homage to the Chicano car culture that defined her youth.
Titled “Drifting on a Memory,” the exhibition features a custom mural in vibrant swaths of yellow, pink, orange and red, designed and executed by Rosales in conjunction with Dallas lowrider artist Lokey Calderon and Fort Worth artist Sarah Ayala. Swirling, freehand pinstriping — a Calderon specialty — completes the paint job. A disco ball spinning overhead casts lights across the walls.
Green neon lights run along the bottom of the mural, echoing the dynamic glow exuded by lowrider undercarriages. Two mirrored boxes lined with neon lights are nestled into the walls, etched with custom graphics and topped by photographs from Rosales’ archive. Looking inside, the lights and images appear infinite, repeated again and again until they disappear — moments captured in time, memories framed by the glow of passing street signs.
The rectangular window that peers into the museum’s Center for Creative Connections has been covered in tufted pink velvet to mimic the interior of a car. A bouquet of flowers wrapped in a blue bandanna rests upon its surface, while a disco ball spins above. A soundscape Rosales recorded while cruising echoes throughout the walkway.
Dating back to the mid-20th century, California’s lowrider culture is a subsect of the evolution of American car culture and the “hot rod” era.
After World War II, many Mexican American servicemen returned as highly trained mechanics, now able to purchase vehicles with their military pay. As cars became necessary and commonplace, these veterans and others began to tweak them with custom paint, graphics, interiors and suspension systems. These vehicles became not only a source of personal pride, but distinctly symbolic of Chicano culture and the growing Chicano revolution.
Taking up space and being seen became a purposeful form of activism for a long-marginalized community. The “low and slow” approach to driving became a way to maintain maximum visibility and foster social engagement.
Rosales grew up in East Los Angeles, during the tumultuous years of the 1980s and ’90s, when the city’s minority populations were rocked by the LA riots and the crackdown on illegal immigration. She began “cruising” (riding in lowriders) as a young teenager and became a member of a “party crew,” throwing underground raves in dilapidated warehouses — a movement that heralded the growing entrepreneurial spirit of minority communities and the commercial success of West Coast street culture.
After suffering losses — including her cousin — to gang violence, Rosales moved to New York City. A decade later, she returned to Los Angeles, stronger in her identity as a queer Latinx artist and ready to confront her past. In 2015, Rosales began the social media project “Veterana y Rucas” (@veteranas_and_rucas on Instagram), a vintage photographic archive of California Chicano women that is described as “reframing our past by sharing our stories for better futures.”
Rosales then created another photographic social media project, “Map Pointz” (@map_pointz on Instagram), dedicated to documenting the underground culture party of the 1990s Los Angeles. The name is a reference to party coordinates that could only be accessed via a set of instructions. Both projects are a personal yet collective visual diary of sorts, a way to reconnect with and define a past that is specific to a region but echoes across those of us who came of age in the ’90s, the last era of true face-to -face, analog humanity.
Looking backward at the end of the installation, visitors encounter a rearview mirror etched with the titular phrase, “Drifting on a memory.” You are at once placed within the exhibition while also within the world yet to come, the past, present and future encapsulated within a single frame.
“Guadalupe Rosales: Drifting on a Memory” continues through July 10 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., Dallas. Tuesday through Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm; Friday from 11 am to 9 pm; and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm Free. For more information, visit dma.org or call 214-922-1200.