Yolanda López


1942, United States, North and Central America

Yolanda López (1942–2021) was an interdisciplinary and conceptual artist, an activist and leader, an educator, film producer, printmaker, and a Chicana/o studies scholar. She was born in San Diego. López earned her BA from San Diego State University in 1975 and in 1979 earned an MFA from University of California, San Diego. Some of her best known works include the Guadalupe Triptych (1978), which presents herself, her mother, and her grandmother subverting and appropriating the Latin American religious figure the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Who's the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim? (1981) purchased by SFMOMA. Her experience as an activist fighting for Los Siete de la Raza, a group of seven young Latinos accused of killing a police officer in 1969 who were later acquitted, was instrumental in her life and work. In 1970, she participated in protests to reclaim the space and culture surrounding San Diego’s Chicano Park. While living in the Mission, she exhibited at Galería de la Raza, including her solo exhibition Cactus Hearts and Barbed Wire Dreams in 1988. She lived in the Mission until her passing. In 2021, muralist Jessica Sabogal, with the help of artists Bianca Rivera, Paola De La Calle, Shanna Strauss, Malaya Tuyay, and Elizabeth Blancas, completed a multistory mural portrait of Yolanda at 16th Street and Folsom. Their homage, completed shortly before López died, placed her overseeing the Mission and next to icons of her artistic and activist practices, expressing her enthusiasm for the Black Panthers, referring to her graphic work for Basta Ya! newspaper, and duplicating her controversial representation of La Virgen de Guadalupe with visible legs. The mural communicates her dynamism and leadership, as well as her mentorship to younger artists and scholars. In July 2021, López received a $50,000 fellowship from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation as part of their new Latinx Artist Fellowship. Her art, as Cary Cordova described it in an essay in 2008, is “beautiful, angry, dynamic, and feminist.” Her interest in challenging social and gender constructs as well as racial stereotypes was present in all aspects of her work and life.

Camilo Garzón

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Works by Yolanda López

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