Making Muralist Jokes: Asco's Contestation of the Mural and its Challenge to Chicano/a Aesthetics

Renato Olmedo-González

Abstract


The onset of the Chicano civil rights movement in the United States saw the rise of one of the most emblematic forms of public, monumental art: Muralism. The Chicano/a artists that aimed to highlight issues pertaining to their communities considered the Mexican Mural Movement of the 1920s-30s-and its tropes, icons, and codified histories-a direct predecessor. Soon thereafter, many Chicano/a artists began to construct a strong sense of identity through their work. Although muralism, the Chicano medium form par excellence, was an empowering form of community social art and visibility, many Chicano/a artists found its impositions on Chicano/a identity limiting and constricting because it established an "official" form of Chicano/a art making. Active from 1972-1985, the Chicano conceptual avant-garde group Asco sought to redefine the confines of Chicano/a art-making by clashing the established parameters of traditional Chicano/a culture with clandestine and ephemeral art making, thus questioning the veracity of a fixated, or rather walled, Chicano/a identity. Asco deconstructed the artistic limitations the Chicano/a art conventions of their time imposed on them and approached the static medium of muralism through public performances, interventions, happenings, site appropriation, and graffiti. Through a study of their approach to muralism, this paper aims to demonstrate Asco's challenge to the medium and how it successfully expanded and redefined the possibilities of creating Chicano/a art.   


Keywords


Chicana/o; Chicano/a Movement; Chicano/a Identity; Murals; Muralism; Chicano Civil Rights Movement; Conceptual Art; Chicano/a Art; Mexican-Americans in the United States; Chicano/a Aesthetics; Chicano/a Nationalism; Performance Art; Identity Politics;

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