Other Voices: Patrick Ela

Patrick Ela

Ela is a former museum director, public art consultant, and appraiser of fine art accredited by the American Society of Appraisers. He discusses the 1981 Murals of Aztlán exhibition.

In 1981, Frank Romero had an idea for a reverse exhibition where the opening would be at the end and the content would be created during the run. Edith Wyle and I were co-directors of the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) at the time and approved Frank’s proposal for the Murals of Aztlán immediately.

Oversized canvases were stretched over CAFAM’s walls, and Carlos, the East Los Streetscapers (David Rivas Botello, Wayne Alaniz Healy, and George Yepes) Judithe Hernández, Willie Herrón, Gronk, Frank Romero, and John Valadez all started painting. Veteran filmmaker Jim Tartan created a film also named Murals of Aztlán and chronicled the whole wonderful performance.

Carlos’s mural was called Sunset on the Fig (1981). The ironic title referred to his image of the Hotel Figueroa in downtown L.A. burning down late one summer afternoon. As with his car crashes and other existential works, there was tremendous beauty in the conflagration and chaos of the hotel’s potential demise.


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