Chicano Art: The Other Side of the Fence During the 1960s

Chicano+Art%3A+The+Other+Side+of+the+Fence+During+the+1960s

Rafael Alvarado, Staff Writer

Rafael Alvarado
Rafael Alvarado

The artistic values and art pieces from all kinds of cultures and decades are all special in their own right. Art depicts many events that occur during the artist’s era or they can be a way of expression. Mexican-American art, especially, during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s are evidence of the hardships they had to endure during those times.

In the 1960s the new generation of Mexican-Americans formed a social movement to fight for the equal treatment and rights of their people. In California and Texas, Mexican-Americans demanded the enhancement of schools and better treatment of farm workers. Mexican-Americans fought in New Mexico for the restoration of the land taken away by the American government, fighting also for voting rights, and political rights for all.

Within this time many Mexican-Americans expressed and fought against American institutions with their artistic skills. The Chicano art movement was the Mexican-Americans artists’ way to create an identity for themselves in a country where they are being told they do not belong. The Chicano identity fights the system, social norms, and stereotypes given to Mexican-Americans during those times. Art during the Chicano movement helped express their feelings and spread their message.

One of the more prominent artist, personally one of my favorites, to come out of the movement were a group called ASCO their name was derived from the Spanish word which translates into disgust. Original members consisted of close friends Gronk, Patssi Valdez, Harry Gamboa Jr, and Willie Herron. Based in East Los Angeles they focused their works on conceptual, theater, and montage. First Supper After a Major Riot was a staged piece after the Chicano Moratorium took place because it was frowned upon for a group of people to gather. Setting up on Whittier Boulevard each artist, with a dime in their pocket in case they were arrested, to express the power to gather in a non-violent way.

Spray Paint LACMA another piece of ASCO where the group signed their name on the entrance of LACMA symbolically taking credit for the institution. The piece was conceived after one of the curators told them their art was “folk” art and not worthy of being in an exhibition.

Ironically enough years later their works will be displayed and praised by the same institution that rejected them. The same with an art collective named Los Four that consisted of Frank Romero, Carlos Almarez, Robert de la Rocha, and founder Gilbert “Magu” Luján. Both groups not only are known for their works within their own art groups, but are rightfully their own artist who helped bring Chicano and Mexican-American issues and art into mainstream media.

Many notable and very interesting Mexican-American artist such as John Valadez who have a photorealistic art style where he is known to underline the danger and tension in his paintings. The Pool Party, Valadez’s work is very memorable and striking because the piece comes to life before your very eyes. The fire behind the girl resembling the internal tension in one of the girls or any observer’s life. Carmen Garza has a “slice of life” art style in where she paints scenes of everyday Mexican events.

These artists I mention are personal favorites, but there are many more artists to appreciate and uphold as some of the best artist in the world.

Anyone interested to learn more about Chicano Art can search for exhibitions, documentaries, online articles that go in depth of the topic. Chicano art is very interesting to learn about and if my readers are serious about learning more there is a Contemporary Mexican-American Culture class on campus taught by Professor Hector G. Gonzalez. The course covers more than just the Chicano art and movement itself, but the Mexican-American history as well.

Appreciating these artist is the least people can do for their unique contributions to the art world and Chicano movement. Individuals do not have to be an art major or art enthusiast to love the art that flourished from the Chicano movement because art can enjoyed by all. I use the word “Chicano art or Artist” throughout the article because I do not want to identify these artists just as Chicano artist.

 

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