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First Front: Vanguard of the Chicano Movement
8/16/1994 - 9/24/1994
Painting, graphics and archival material honoring the Chicano artists who launched a tidal wave of artistic expression in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. With Eduardo Carillo, Francisco X. Camplis, Rupert García, José Ramón Lerma, Ralph Maradiaga, José Montoya, Malaquías Montoya, Ernesto Palomino, Peter Rodríguez, Esteban Villa, René Yañez. Curated by Sal García.
  Galería Exhibitions A World Without Borders: The Works of Judith Francisca Baca <1994>
Figuras y Alegoría: Glass Works by Einar and Jamex de la Torre <1994>
Aim for the Limits: A Children's Photography Exhibit <1994>
Dos Caras/ Two Faces: The Works of Ruben Trejo <1994>
First Front: Vanguard of the Chicano Movement <1994>
Open Studios: Works by Juan R. Fuentes, Ester Hernandez and Nancy Hom <1994>
Día de los Muertos <1994>
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First Front: Vanguard of the Chicano Movement

Curatorial Statement

In the 1950’s some of the artists showcased here, like many other Mexican-American soldiers who had paid the price for democracy, returned from the Korean Wars to find their communities still suffering racial bias and economic strangulation. Under the G.I. bill, some attended colleges and universities, studying art, but upon graduating, discovered that because their art did not conform to Euro-centric ideals no galleries or museums were interested in their work. Bright colors, social content and political themes were often shunned by the mainstream, so these artists began to form their own collectives and create their own galleries.

In the 1960’s the country was in a struggle for civil rights, with demonstration against the war in Vietnam and against police brutality. Chicanos in the inner cities organized walkouts in the high schools, demanding an education that reflected their cultural heritage and their contributions to their country, and not one that facilitated their erasure. They wanted Chicano teachers. They demanded equal rights and equal protection under the law. They also wanted to know why so many Chicanos were dying in Vietnam.

In August of 1970, groups organized The Chicano Moratorium Against The War in Vietnam. Thousands gathered in Los Angeles to protest. Many were Chicanos Police responded to the peaceful march with gunfire and batons. Hundreds were injured. Four died. Among the dead was Los Angels Time Journalist, Ruben Salazar, a man who had championed Mexican and Chicano causes. Many believed his death was premeditated murder, and not an “accident” as claimed by an inquiry. From California to Texas the streets of Aztlan filled with Chicanos of every age, shouting “Ya Basta!”.

Raza all over the Southwest began to organize in earnest. Young and old, teachers and students, mothers and grandmothers pressed themselves into duty, organized walkouts, challenging school boards, running for office and supporting the campesinos of the United Farm Workers. From these beginnings were formed cultural centers, theaters, writer’s group, law advocacies community newspaper, all with the message, “Viva La Raza!” and “ Chicano Power”. The consciousness of themselves as a people in a multi-cultural world assured, Chicanos began to study their indigenous past, the history of the Southwest, the Mexican revolution as well as the mural painters of the 30’s and 40’s.

Many of those at the forefront were artists, painters, poets and writers who realized that in order to assert their cultural beliefs, history and spirit into a society that was not reflecting them, they must become political organizers and activists.

The artists before you were part of the apex of that vanguard movement. They used their talent, wit and humor to serve the community. They said, “Enough of European models and aesthetics. We have a rich cultural history……as good as any.”

Sal Garcia
Exhibition Curator