Yolanda López, “Runner: On My Own!” 1977

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego‘s downtown galleries will reopen from a long pandemic closure on Saturday with an exhibition of famed San Diego-born Chicana artist Yolanda López.

This will be the first solo exhibition in a museum for López, a path-breaking artist, activist, and educator whose career in California spanned five decades.

Detail of “Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe” by Yolanda López

López, who tragically died of cancer at the age of 78 in early September, is renowned for her role in the Chicano art movement and for her iconic Virgin of Guadalupe series.  

MCASD had planned “Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist” for the fall of 2020, but had to pivot to online programming. The much-anticipated exhibition will open to the public with a community celebration of the artist’s life and work from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Born and raised in Barrio Logan, López earned art degrees at San Diego State University and UC San Diego, but pursued her art and teaching career in San Francisco

The exhibition presents 50 works in paint, charcoal, collage and photography from the 1970s and 1980s, a period when López created an influential body art that investigates and re-imagines women in Chicano culture.

“López leaves behind a profound legacy and it is a special honor, here in the artist’s hometown, to present the first solo museum exhibition of this lauded figure in the worlds of art and activism,” explained museum CEO Kathryn Kanjo.

“Many of López’ commanding drawings received essential conservation treatments, allowing, at last, for the public display of these formative artworks. The outsize portraits of the artist, her mother, and her grandmother will be a revelation for many visitors,” Kanjo said.

The exhibition runs through April 24. The museum in the historic Santa Fe Depot at 1100 Kettner Boulevard is open Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.