Morale Behind the Mural

Julius Schulman 1970 . © J. Paul Getty Trust

Art Gallery Director Janet Owen Driggs was amazed that no one seemed to know anything about the sculpture, or the “Library Mural”, located under the College Complex building when she became a full time instructor at Cypress College in 2015. Owen Driggs wanted to do an exhibition in order to understand why the “Library Mural” was so different and special. The art exhibit took approximately two and a half years to complete with the help of her students and archives provided by O’Cadiz’s daughter, Pilar O’Cadiz.


Sergio O’Cadiz Moctezuma was described as a multi-talented artist who took on different art styles, according to Janet Owen Driggs. His artwork varied from pen and paper sketches, paintings, murals, and concrete projects. O’Cadiz was known for his architecture work in Orange County, California.


According to Gustavo Arellano’s “El Artist” essay, O’Cadiz was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1934 and grew up in a middle class family. He studied to become an architectural designer in Mexico, and then later migrated to continue his work in Orange County, California in 1962.


Later in 1967, O’Cadiz was a part of the architectural team who designed the Cypress College campus. His involvement led to the creation of the “Library Mural” located under the College Complex building. The style of this art piece was intended to be within brutalism architecture which meant no decoration because it was seen as dishonest, and non-structural add-ons were unacceptable such as fake columns and moldings. Sergio O’Cadiz took a different approach to get the results that he wanted.


The early process consisted of O’Cadiz using concrete to line the forms with styrofoam and then carved them into a unique sculpture. The objects were also pressed in order to create patterns as well as adding color paste to the styrofoam that the drying concrete absorbed.


The artwork displayed in the exhibit were full of various styles from murals he worked on in the Orange County area such as Fontana Valley and paintings such as Era de Quinto Sol.


La Colonia Juarez Community Mural was painted on top of the graffiti in the Mexican-American neighborhood of Fountain Valley, California. After the mural was approved by the city, local residents raised enough money for the project materials in order for O’Cadiz to be the artist behind their “vision.” The different sceneries in the mural reflected Chicano history, culture, identity, and the experiences families would face living in the states. One of the painted scenes showed a Mexican mother and father with their baby holding up white masks in a white neighborhood in order to “blend in” American society, even though their facial expressions displayed unhappiness.


During the late 1960’s to 1970’s, many Mexican-American artists participated in the Chicano Movement. O’Cadiz, on the other hand, was ambivalent about the movement because his idea of America was to be as Mexican as he wanted to be. Although he did not participate in the movement, he did show his appreciation for the Mexican culture. The Era de Quinto Sol painting represented how fond he was for the Aztec art using bright, vivid acrylic paint colors.


The Sergio O’Cadiz Moctezuma art exhibit will be held from September 19 to November 14 in the Cypress College Art Gallery, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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