Willie Herron’s

"The Wall that Cracked Open"


The "after" picture above shows how graffiti abatement workers painted over Willie Herron's mural "The Wall That Cracked Open." (Artist is standing in the center). Herron has just completed restoring the mural to its original condition.

The History behind the Mural:

Willie Herr6n's mural, The Wall that Cracked Open, 1972, sought to infuse a Chicano social consciousness into the potentially self-destructing youth "gang" members of his community, as it also signaled his probing of the limits of the mural form. In order to reach his desired audience, Herr6n painted the mural in his neighborhood, in an alley frequented by the young people he wanted to reach.

Although Herr6n had previously painted a mural at the entrance to this same alley, The Wall that Cracked Open, painted in the middle of the alley, is a poignant personal protest against a local youth gang's brutal beating of his brother, as well as a powerful political protest against the destructive effects of alienation suffered by the city's Chicano community. To provide a more relevant street culture dimension to the mural's content, he integrated his design of a gang-victimized bleeding young man, fighting youth, and crying grandmother with the graffiti" already on the wall left by the young barrio calligraphers of the area. By incorporating the Chicano "graffiti" into an "artwork," Herr6n initiated a critical rethinking of graffiti as solely signifying vandalism which in turn has led to a deeper understanding of the relationship between so-called Chicano graffiti and Chicano murals."'

Through an artistically produced illusion of the mural's victimized subject as well as his attackers breaking through the wall on which they are actually painted, Herr6n was able to demonstrate how space in the mural form could be manipulated to produce a questioning of the form itself. Although Herr6n would continue to paint important murals by himself and with others, this particular mural made him keenly aware that Chicano art also had to break away from the walls or boundaries created by Chicanos and non-Chicanos alike.

Excerpt from "Murals del Movimiento: Chicano Murals and the Discourses of Art and Americanization" by M. Sanchez-Tranquilino in Signs From the Heart: California Chicano Murals. The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), Publisher 1990, 1996.