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Karla Diaz: Wait 'til Your Mother Gets Home
February 17-June 22, 2024

As a child, artist Karla Diaz would often get in trouble for drawing on walls. “Wait ‘til your mother gets home!” her aunt would exclaim.

Diaz still loves to draw and paint. Karla Diaz: Wait 'til Your Mother Gets Home features recent works on paper and canvas that focus on American Mexican identity from the 1970s to the present, emphasizing a cultural context of social upheaval and justice through the artist’s explorations of recollection and imagination.  Diaz’s vivid, narrative paintings and works on paper depict portraits and landscapes of people and places that inform her memories growing up in Los Angeles and México. 

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Photo by Lluvia Higuera
Photo by Lluvia Higuera

Karla Diaz is a writer, teacher, and multidisciplinary artist who engages in painting, installation, video, and performance. Using narrative to question identity, institutional power, and explore memory, her socially engaged practice generates exciting collaborations and provokes important dialogue among diverse communities. Notably, she is the co-founder of the socially engaged collective and community artist space Slanguage. Critical discourse is central to her practice as she explores social, subcultural, and marginalized stories.  

Diaz’s recent work is the result of a year of insomnia. As a stroke survivor, she practices repetitive memory exercises, using drawing as a tool for excavating and retaining information. In her commitment to rendering a painting every night, Diaz turned to the unfiltered, spontaneous imagery that surfaced during her insomnia, whether dreams, fantasies, or memory. In her introspection, splashes of color became figures and objects that transformed into scenes of domesticity and city life drawn from her upbringing in Mexico and Los Angeles. Personal memories, folklore, familiar iconography of her Mexican heritage, and American pop culture are intertwined in surreal compositions that consider family, loss, and the complexities of the Latinx experience in the United States. As Diaz expresses, “these works reveal meaning in relation to others, to experience, to memory, to story, to dreams and dreamers, to imagination and to the larger context of home.”

Diaz was born in Los Angeles, CA. She received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2003 and a BA from California State University Los Angeles in 1999. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA; Pitzer College, Claremont, CA; California State University Los Angeles, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ; LAXART, Hollywood, CA; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, MI; the Serpentine Gallery, London, U.K.; and Museo Casa de Cervantes, Madrid, Spain.

She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards from Art Matters, New York, NY; Tiffany Foundation, New York, NY; City of Los Angeles, CA; Riverside Art Museum, CA; and CalArts, Los Angeles, CA. 

Her work is included in the collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA; Inhotim Museum, Brumahinto, Brazil; Armando Duron Collection, Los Angeles, CA; Faye Hunter and Hugh Davies Collection, La Jolla, CA; Eileen Harris Norton Collection, Los Angeles, CA; among others. Karla Diaz lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. 

On View February 17 - June 22, 2024
18th Street Arts Center, Airport Campus
Propeller Gallery
3026 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA

Support for this exhibition comes from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, a state agency, and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.

18th Street Arts Center recognizes and acknowledges the first people of the ancestral territory on which its two sites have been built. With respect to their elders, past and present, and future generations, we recognize the Gabrieleño Tongva – who are still here – and honor, with gratitude, the land itself and those who have stewarded it throughout the generations. We honor and respect the many indigenous peoples still connected to this land on which we gather, and we commit our work in service to and in alignment with these values. Please consider supporting the Gabrieleño Tongva at

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