| Nephtalí de León, La Virgen de Guadaliberty, 1999, serigraph, 10.5 inches by 6 inches (courtesy photo)
A crescendo of jubilant gritos!
For collectors and aficionados of contemporary art, a comprehensive, encyclopedic work on Chicano art has arrived. Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art: Artists, Works, Culture, and Education is not an art show catalog promoting an exhibit nor a rehashed historical survey. It is an original, two-volume publication that will leave the most skeptical and jaded art lovers impressed. An added incentive for local readers is the baker's dozen of San Antonio artists featured in the set: Mel Casas, Nephtalí De León, Rolando Briseño, Xavier Garza, Juan Farias, Carolina G. Flores, Quintin González, Joe L. López, César A. Martínez, Alex Rubio, Roberto Sifuentes, Vincent Valdez, and David Zamora Casas.
In his introduction, the book's principal editor, Arizona State University Regents Professor of Spanish Gary D. Keller, discusses the scope and concept of this multi-volume work (two more volumes are forthcoming, which will include Chicana/o filmmakers), along with an Internet extension (www.latinoartcommunity.org). "One of our objectives ... was to provide a fertile resource base upon which art research, interpretation, and criticism could be generated," writes Keller.
The visual beauty of the two-volume set offers the ability to hold in one's hands the gamut of Chicana and Chicano art as an organic whole. What originally were to be 100 artist profiles has doubled. Each profile includes examples of each artist's work, a mug shot, an art statement or manifesto, a short biography, and a bibliography. The artist statements allow readers to get close to the artists. César Martinez' eloquent manifesto states: "I make paintings of people, as opposed to portraits. The characters are frequently composites of people I have know or seen - characters universal to the Chicano experience. One of my principal objectives is that my characters be instantly recognizable. 'I know him!' is a frequent response. It is music to my ears when I hear that." Wünderkind Vincent Valdez nails his characters: "By portraying forms with expressive and at times exaggerated gestures, I hope to reflect characters on the brink of an overwhelming sexuality or violence while offering a hint of the hidden pathos of every-day life."
|The visual beauty of the two-volume set offers the ability to hold in one's hands the gamut of Chicana and Chicano art as an organic whole.|
"Ninety percent of Chicano art is political," says poet and painter Nephtalí De León, whose work emerged during La Raza's civil rights movement. He illustrates his point with a recent painting that portrays La Guadalupana in a Statue of Liberty pose, featured in Volume II.
The book and the website bridge Rolando Briseño's earlier work to his current interests. "I like public art because it's public! It doesn't sit in someone's home or museum, more people get to experience it. I have moved beyond affirmation and tired identity issues in my art," he says, explaining his transition from his "tabletop" paintings and sculpture featured in Volume I to large-scale public pieces, photographs of which will be added to the website upon completion. He is currently working on The Learning Tree, a two-and-a-half ton bronze grille for the front of a waterfall at Trinity University's new administration building.
| Alex Rubio, El Orejón, 1997, oil on canvas, 6 feet by 4 feet, collection of Cheech Marin (courtesy photo)
"Besides `the series'` comprehensive breadth and depth, I like the fact that Chicano art is continual," says Kathy Vargas, chair of the art program at Incarnate Word University, and a former director of the art program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. "I didn't end on some specific date. It is ongoing. I also like the way `the series` includes younger practitioners of the art like Quentin Gonzáles, as well as veterans like César `Martinez`." Vargas admits that her work is missing from the debut volumes because she missed her deadline.
| Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art: Artists, Works, Culture, and Education |
Edited by Gary D. Keller
Volume I, 336 pages
ISBN: 1-931010-09-9 (cloth),
Volume II, 342 pages
ISBN: 1-931010-10-2 (cloth),
To Keller's delight, Quirarte now uses Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art in his University of Texas at San Antonio art class. "The biggest change in Chicano art is that the artists no longer look toward Mexico for inspiration," Quirarte says. "This began when artists like César Martinez, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Amado Peña began to focus on Chicano/a culture in their work. It was `then` only a question of time before Chicano/a artists would receive the recognition they so richly deserve."
A sense of carnalismo permeates Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art, despite the varied and diverse use of media, theme, or philosophy each artist may espouse. In addition to the personal validation, there is another, more important feeling of being part of a movement larger in scope than each artist. Yet each can become an integral part of documenting and defining the once and future Chicana and Chicano art. •