Walls of Empowerment

Walls of Empowerment

Copyright Date: 2008
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    Walls of Empowerment
    Book Description:

    Exploring three major hubs of muralist activity in California, where indigenist imagery is prevalent,Walls of Empowermentcelebrates an aesthetic that seeks to firmly establish Chicana/o sociopolitical identity in U.S. territory. Providing readers with a history and genealogy of key muralists' productions, Guisela Latorre also showcases new material and original research on works and artists never before examined in print.

    An art form often associated with male creative endeavors, muralism in fact reflects significant contributions by Chicana artists. Encompassing these and other aspects of contemporary dialogues, including the often tense relationship between graffiti and muralism,Walls of Empowermentis a comprehensive study that, unlike many previous endeavors, does not privilege non-public Latina/o art. In addition, Latorre introduces readers to the role of new media, including performance, sculpture, and digital technology, in shaping the muralist's "canvas."

    Drawing on nearly a decade of fieldwork, this timely endeavor highlights the ways in which California's Mexican American communities have used images of indigenous peoples to raise awareness of the region's original citizens. Latorre also casts murals as a radical force for decolonization and liberation, and she provides a stirring description of the decades, particularly the late 1960s through 1980s, that saw California's rise as the epicenter of mural production. Blending the perspectives of art history and sociology with firsthand accounts drawn from artists' interviews,Walls of Empowermentrepresents a crucial turning point in the study of these iconographic artifacts.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79393-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiv-xxxii)
  5. Introduction Indigenism and Chicana/o Muralism: The Radicalization of an Aesthetic
    (pp. 1-31)

    Two Aztec warriors, dressed in full regalia, clasp arms as they engage in a ritual dance with a mountainous landscape stretching behind them. Aside from inhabiting this idyllic environment, these heroes also physically reside within the barrio setting of East Los Angeles, where Ernesto de la Loza’sDanza de las Aguilas(1978) mural is located. How did the meaning of these indigenous figures connect with the mostly Chicana/o and Mexican residents of East L.A. whose own experience was shaped by both urban life and native Mexican traditions? How was political, social, and cultural consciousness meant to be inscribed into this...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Dialectics of Continuity and Disruption: Chicana/o and Mexican Indigenist Murals
    (pp. 32-65)

    As stipulated in the introduction to this volume, Chicana/o Indigenism was deeply influenced by the Indigenist discourses that emerged in Mexico after the Revolution of 1910. Th e various mural cycles commissioned by the Mexican government throughout the first half of the twentieth century were critical components of that discourse. In these images, Mexican indigenous history and culture were exalted as fundamental building blocks for the postcolonial nation-state. Though artists had previously utilized indigenous images to legitimize a uniquely Mexican national identity,¹ the postrevolutionary period saw an interest in indigenous culture not as an artifact of a bygone though idyllic...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Chicano Movement and Indigenist Murals: The Formation of a Nationalist Canon and Identity
    (pp. 66-99)

    By the early 1970s, once Chicana/o activists had established the civil rights movement and the Chicano Movement as viable platforms through which people of color could articulate their newly politicized identities, they also needed a visual repertoire to accompany or complement the nationalist discourses they formulated. Luis Valdez and his formation of the theater troupe Teatro Campesino in 1965 set a powerful precedent for the celebration of indigenous images and culture, an important model for the visual artists. For Chicanas/os, Indigenist imagery in murals became a crucial component of this repertoire and, as such, formed an important part of the...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Graffiti and Murals: Urban Culture and Indigenist Glyphs
    (pp. 100-139)

    It should come as no surprise that Chicana/o muralism emerged in the same spaces where graffiti, tagging, throw-ups, andplaqueasos/placaswere and continue to be prominent in the urban landscapes of California. Though community muralism, Chicana/o Indigenism, and graffiti are creative expressions that have operated more or less independently of one another, this chapter explores the contested site where all three intersect in the urban spaces of California. Given that these three currents were sharing the same spaces and were being produced by similar communities, it stands to reason that they would encounter one another at various junctions. This chapter...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Chicana/o Mural Environment: Indigenist Aesthetics and Urban Spaces
    (pp. 140-175)

    As I stipulated in the introduction to this volume, Indigenist imagery in muralism was meant to function as a metaphorical and tangible platform where Chicana/o artists could carve out spaces for the articulation of cultural citizenship and decolonizing creative expressions. The space, site, and location of a mural were as critical to its production as its style, iconography, and subject matter. These elements are so important that Chicana artist Judy Baca once stated that when preparing to make a new mural, she always carefully surveys the space where the work of art will reside. She takes into consideration the space’s...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Gender, Indigenism, and Chicana Muralists
    (pp. 176-210)

    The chosen medium for the politically engaged Chicana/o artist in the 1970s was undoubtedly the public mural.¹ Indeed, the public mural was deeply saturated with a powerful history of politicization as well as a profound connection to indigenous artistic traditions. But murals also possessed a gendered history that historically and discursively relegated women to the margins and subsequently rendered them completely invisible, thus mirroring the dynamics of the Chicano Movement itself.² Chicano writers and activists from the 1970s, such as Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales and the leaders of the militant group the Brown Berets, regarded the participation of women withinel...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Murals and Postmodernism: Post-movimiento, Heterogeneity, and New Media in Chicana/o Indigenism
    (pp. 211-240)

    The changes in the Chicana/o mural scene and its accompanying Indigenist vocabulary ushered in by individuals like graffiti artists, Chicana muralists, and others greatly contributed to a breaking down of some of the monolithic notions of identity that at times defi ned these public works of art. The new visual vocabularies that these artists were introducing, however, were part of a broader trend among urban artists to loosen static definitions of muralism. From its very inception, Chicana/o muralism in California possessed a postmodern quality whereby new aesthetics were constantly being erected and broken down almost simultaneously. Moreover, muralism’s goal to...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 241-244)

    One of the most motivating reasons that I took a specific interest in the Indigenist iconography found in California Chicana/o murals was that I immediately understood that the recurrence of this imagery functioned as a sort of chronic symptom of Chicana/o culture at the end of the twentieth century. In many cases, the revelations that these murals uncovered about the state of Chicana/o history, politics, and, of course, culture were just as intriguing as the beauty of the images themselves. Suggesting that one could use Freudian psychoanalysis on culture in general, rather than just on an individual, English literature and...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-268)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-282)
  15. Index
    (pp. 283-292)