Chicano Arte Chingon by Chicanos Chingones . . .

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What is Chicano Art?

Mark Vallen:

The California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives of the University of Santa Barbara, California (CEMA), describes the aesthetic in the following manner: "Chicano art is a public and political art, proclaiming and expressing public and social concerns in its themes and subjects."

That is not a description I’m inclined to argue against, though in all fairness it is one in need of further elaboration.

Historically Chicano Art - or Chicanarte - has served as the basic building blocks of a people’s self-esteem. It has exhorted the Mexican American community to stand, take pride in itself, and to resist the forces of subjugation. The earliest expressions of Chicano art were in support of the United Farm Worker’s Union and their leader César Chávez, as the battle to bring decent working conditions to California’s agricultural workers raged in the mid-60s, but artworks soon addressed other concerns - from cultural identity and immigration, to poverty and the Vietnam War. Chicanarte was - and remains - community based and tied to the culture, folk traditions and histories of people on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Over the years Chicano art has become nuanced, accepting a multiplicity of styles and interests without becoming diluted, it has embraced performance, installation, and conceptual forms without abandoning its essence.

In their curatorial statement, the organizers of Xican@ Demiurge wrote: "Art that is innovative and aggressive in its approach is critical to developing a contemporary aesthetic that is representative of the 21st Century Xican@ artist. The cultural climate influencing this particular group today is not the same as the one that triggered 'El Movimiento Chicano' of the 1960’s."

I’m left wondering how the art presented in this exhibit could be considered "aggressive in its approach," unless the direction is one of insistent self-absorption, political retreat and apathy. The curators of Xican@ Demiurge take pains to point out that conditions currently facing Chicanos are not those of the 60s, which is true enough - but this seems an excuse not to address current realities more than anything else. Of the twenty-one artists in the exhibit, only one displayed a work addressing an overt political issue - and that attempt was not very engaging.

Armando Baeza:

Well I am! [a Chicano Artist]

By the word "aesthetics", I hope they don't mean style or something that is assumed to be inherent in all Chicano art work.

Perhaps if we were all clones, this might be true, but even cones must have a backbone with some independence in them.

I will admit that there are groups of like minded artist that work in like minded styles, but our aesthetic independence is as varied as there are individuals or groups of like minded individuals.

As "fine artists" we all belong to the world of artists expressing what we feel compelled to express without anyone's persuasion or dominance over us, unless we desire that.

As Chicanos we represent a variety of cultures boiled down to two, Mexican and American for the present, and evolving.

Even though, the American influence represents as many “cultures" as the Mexican influence does, blood remains thicker than water, but roots always follow water where abundant. Yet one thing is for sure, nothing is everlasting. I've witness many forevers disappear.

Our progeny, unless it's under chains will always decide for themselves where they make roots as we did. Even Chicanismo like everything else has a finality. But let’s give it our best while we are in it or it's in us.

Sonya Fe:

I know what isn't Chicano Art...

Chicano art isn't boring.

Chicano art isn't predictable and formulated.

Chicano art isn't techniques taught in art schools.

Chicano art isn't a passing fad.

When I see Chicano art I see plain raw emotions capture on whatever medium/media the artist chooses.

In this day and age when so many artist art stuck to one style to produce the same style and subject matter over and over again for a gallery show, I just don't see that when I see Chicano art.

The images I see aren't formulated, but come directly from the artists experiences meaning the use of his/her materials.


I agree [with Sonya].

Some people think Chicano Art is only La Virgen, anything Aztec, Lowriders or Che; icons that I find interesting no matter how often they are duplicated.

It seems like to be a Chicano Artist, you must, at least, make one painting of one of those icons - it's the right of passage into Chicano Art. Once you pay your dues in icons, you can venture into what ever chingArte you want to produce.

ChingArte is the term I created to identify Chicano Art that has the "Soy Chicano, Y Que" attitude.


The question remains, Ernesto.

What is inherent in everyone's Chicano Experience?

In other words, what is it that we all share from birth besides all the cultures and origins we do share?

Or is it just a passing thing that eventually diminishes?

Or something that will grow regardless if our progeny continue to marry into other cultures and influences.


What is inherent is the realization that you are neither Mexican nor American.

That you are a foreigner everywhere except in the company of other Chicanos.

Below are samples of the artwork of artists featured at Xican@ Demiurge, which we are disputing the validity of calling it Chicano Art:

Rolo Castillo:

Camille Rose Garcia:


Alma Mota:

Albert Reyes:

Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia:

Melly Trochez:


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