Ephemeral Traces: Collective Memory and Culture in the Work of Guadalupe Rosales

by Lizette Carrasco, VPAM Student Tutor

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Installation view, Guadalupe Rosales: Echoes of a Collective Memory, on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, September 15, 2018 – March 23, 2019. Photo by Monica Orozco.

Art has a way of evoking a memory to a time when life was simpler: when connecting with a friend was just a phone call away, to mailing hand-written letters, and back when backyard parties were promoted through word of mouth or handing out a distinctive flyer. The evolution of the Internet has made staying connected more possible for a generation that might not understand the cultural value of going to the Valley Mall with a group of friends or significant others to get their pictures taken and come out with wallet prints with hand-written dedications to give to loved ones. Photographing one another is now just a phone snap away. For VPAM exhibiting artist Guadalupe Rosales, archiving Southern California women and 1990s house party scenes can evoke a collective memory and give people an inside look at these youth subcultures.

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“The Girls” party crew at Johnny Rockets restaurant on Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles, California, 1992. Photo submitted to Rosales’ archive by Eddie Ruvalcaba and featured on the artist’s instagram takeover for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Rosales began sharing her archive of vernacular photography with the public in 2015 via social media. Her Instagram accounts Veteranas and Rucas and Map Pointz have brought the generation of the ‘90s a sense of reclamation. Veteranas and Rucas focuses on the memories of women of Southern California, while Map Pointz is centered around documenting SoCal ‘90s party crews and rave scenes. Rosales also shares photographs from her personal archive on these accounts, although many, if not the majority, are photos provided to her by the community. The exhibition Guadalupe Rosales: Echoes of a Collective Memory made its debut at the Vincent Price Art Museum on September 15, 2018. In this first solo museum exhibition by the artist, Rosales showcased video compilations, flyers, photographs, makeup from the ‘90s, and a collection of party crew hats. 

As part of the exhibition, Rosales cleverly included a reverberation of nostalgic music, audible from the museum’s hallways, to give guests the feeling that they are approaching a party. A payphone installed right outside the gallery doors was preloaded with a recorded message to reference how these phones acted as a hangout spot in her younger years to get hold of boyfriends or friends. In this way, the payphone activated their stories. Inside the exhibition space, Rosales displayed a large, wall-mounted collage of images of women and a projector that featured images of Latinx couples and female party crews. An important piece of the exhibition was the altar Rosales created to pay tribute to her cousin, Ever M. Sanchez, who passed away from gang violence in 1996. The death of her cousin affected her mental health to the point where she experienced depression. The altar displayed some of her cousin’s personal belongings, including his backpack and a notebook with some of his writing. The presentation of his belongings immortalized his existence within the gallery space. 

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Installation view, Guadalupe Rosales: Echoes of a Collective Memory, on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, September 15, 2018 – March 23, 2019. Photo by Monica Orozco.

Latinx identity in the media has been stigmatized. Media depictions of what is considered “cholo/a” has generalized communities and led to scrutinization of how Latinx folks are seen. The resulting negative stereotypes influence cultural narratives that marginalize the community. Through Rosales’s work, the Latinx community takes hold of its own narrative. Her exhibition is a celebration being a woman of color, sparking nostalgia, and sharing experiences of collectively-experienced trauma. Amalia Mesa-Bains, who is a visual artist and educator, vocalizes that art is about healing: “When people participate in art, when they make it, when they view it, it is the same as making yourself well” (Portillo and Muñoz 1990). Indeed, the process of healing afforded through Rosales’ artistic practice has become a positive reclamation for Latinx and Chicanx communities. Rosales’ exhibition at VPAM provided another platform for Rosales to inspire collective joy, healing, mourning, and knowledge sharing through art and archives. 


Sources Cited

Herstik, Gabriela. “This Latinx Artist and Archivist Is LACMA’s First Instagram Artist-in-Residence.” HelloGiggles, hellogiggles.com/news/chicana-artist-archivist-lacma-first-instagram-artist-in-residence/.

“On the Cover: Aperture’s ‘Los Angeles’ Issue.” Aperture Foundation NY, 13 Sept. 2018, aperture.org/blog/cover-apertures-los-angeles-issue/.

Portillo, Lourdes, et al., directors. La Ofrenda: the Days of the Dead: a Film. L. Portillo, S. Muñoz, 1989.

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