Chicano art developed out of a sense of ethnic pride during the Chicano movement of the ‘70’s. It developed as a statement of affirmation in the face of cultural domination. Prior to the ‘70’s, artists looked to Europe and New York for inspirational content and/or style. Chicano art redirected that focus towards a more local and southern -- past the border -- view. Issues of identity, spirituality and north/south relations became the driving force for Chicano artists. The redirection of focus towards a more locally grown Chicano – rather than Spanish identity, was controversial within the Mexican-American, as well as the Euro American, community. Chicano art by its very nature was born out of rebellion and controversy, changing the way we looked at art and the world.
Within this movement of ethnic identity, cultural figurativism was king whose purpose was to speak to the “masses”. And when you spoke to the masses, you spoke “clearly”. Abstraction was not tangible; you couldn’t identify imagery. During the following 30-35 years, abstract artists worked art differently, not using the traditional icons, therefore not being included into the Chicano mainstream. These artists were considered outsiders. They refused to be directed or controlled – much the same as their art. They had their own perception of style.
Chicanismo was powerful and pervasive in its inception. It opened doors to universities, government, and the art world for the following generations. But, what once was a strong rebellious movement in the 70’s, became vogue during the 80’s, weakened during the mini art crash of the 90’s, and is now being reborn in the 2000’s. An influx of artists from Mexico and Central and South America, living, working, and experiencing the same discrimination Chicanos experience, have incorporated the aesthetic sensibility of Chicano art while adding more to the vernacular. Abstract artists speaking in varied and intangible tongues, born from a Chicano ethos, are finally being embrace. All things evolve.
Linda Arreola: Linda roots her work in indigenous-Hispanic geometry while addressing contemporary Chicano issues. Within geometry’s desire for order, a freedom exists and we see these two seemingly opposing factors live in Linda’s works.
Magda Audifred: Wild with color and passionate strokes, Magda Audifred paints emotionally feverous images. Without a doubt a Mexican palate.
Sam Baray: Sam hammers, drills and distresses linoleum to produce prints reflective of the urban environment in which he worked for over 30 years. His pyramidal structures echo indigenous architecture, while his line takes on an almost graffiti-like characteristic.
Roberto Delgado: His masterful use of gradations and lush color belie the serious political content of Delgado’s work. We are lured into his visual labyrinth where content is revealed to us layer by layer. Delgado’s work asks us to stay and watch the mystery unfold.
Val Echavarria: Organic forms delicately touched with color float on pure white paper. These are only the studies of what will soon be realized paintings. But the simplicity and beauty of line and delicacy of color is what attracts us to Val’s drawings.
CiCi Segura Gonzalez: CiCi’s abstractions play with our eye. Fascinated by uncharted territory, infinite space, the ocean, the universe CiCi draws us into her labyrinth of secrets.
Lorenzo Hurtado: Meticulous and obsessive, Lorenzo weaves painted strips of paper producing delicate geometric designs in three-dimensional form.
Zelman Lara Medina: Speaking to his exile from El Salvador, Zelman pulls out of his monochromatic paintings ghostly images of El Salvador’s bloody war.
Ramon Ramirez: Both architect and studio painter, Ramon’s abstract expressionist work reflects the intersection between the political and the popular. His paintings view the world from the skies. Collaged images from contemporary consumerism interact with these airborne landscapes where “colores Mexicano” dominates the canvas. The border between consumerism and culture is the ground where Ramon stands.
Oscar Sanabria: Issues of identity speak through Oscar Sanabria’s work. A Guatemalan-American living under the umbrella of Chicano art, Oscar searches for answers through his vibrant, passionate abstractions.