A walk through the Dallas Museum of Art’s Concourse transforms into a lowrider cruise night on the streets of East Los Angeles with Guadalupe Rosales’ immersive mural, Drifting on a Memory. The mural is on view through July 10.
The mural was commissioned for the museum’s 153-foot thoroughfare as an homage to the history and culture of Latinx communities in the United States.
“The museums have to be inclusive places. We really have to be able to reflect what is our culture and our living culture. We are repositories of time, we’re repositories of treasures, but we have to find ways to connect with people in their own terms,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the museum’s Eugene McDermott Director.
The lowrider culture has its origins in Los Angeles beginning in the mid-20th century. Lowriders customize cars with elaborate designs, luscious interiors, and spectacular finishes, proudly cruising down major streets. “Lowrider culture is intimately connected to the Latinx culture as a part cruising, parties and other forms of socializing, also here in Dallas, especially on Jefferson Boulevard,” said Dr. Vivian Li, the museum’s Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art and coordinator of this project.
Rosales started cruising 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 Pointz on Instagram.
Drifting on a Memory is her first mural. “She endeavors to reframe Latinx culture in the mural as a celebration of the beauty and artistry of the lowrider culture,” Li said.
To create this mural, Rosales wanted to work with local artists. She connected with Dallas-based lowrider artist Lokey Calderon to create the mural's pinstriping. Calderon recruited Fort Worth mural artist Sarah Ayala for the project.
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The mural, with its disco ball and vibrant hues of red, orange, yellow and hot pink resembling a brilliant Texas sunset, is evocative of the cars’ intricate customizations. “At first, it was really challenging because we wanted to do everything traditional which is airbrushing materials 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 house paints.”
Rosales created a soundscape for the mural, recording different kinds of music merging and fading with the sounds of rumbling cars while cruising. “I was with friends and family, cruising and I just had this idea of bringing that sound into the space just to give the public that sense of sound, what it sounds like to be on a cruise,” Rosales said.
Rosales also incorporates two lightbox sculptures featuring her photography as well as photographs of Calderon’s family. “I wanted to bring in the idea of the multi-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 represents 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 everything you see in here, even the upholstery, is exactly as how 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 gather. That criminalization is why Rosales wants to create these cultural archives. “I’m also interested in celebrating,” Rosales said. “Not just staying in a dark, negative trauma, but how do we turn that into something positive and keep celebrating and keep growing and feeling empowered by it?”
While installing the mural, Rosales could hear onlookers’ comments, some asking questions about the lowrider culture and others recognizing 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 corridor, acting a rearview mirror. Visitors can take pictures of themselves enveloped by the mural and become a part of the lowrider experience Rosales wants to share. “It has been truly an inspiration to see the love, care and dignity that she brings to represent her community and its cultural contributions,” Li said.