Affirming Culture and Resisting Oppression: Selected Works of Chicana/o Art

By Amalia Mesa-Bains, Artist, Scholar, and MacArthur Fellow

The exhibition Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots has its foundation in the Chicano Art Movement known as “El Movimiento.”  From the 1960s on, the Chicana/o Movement of both political and cultural development galvanized a generation of Mexican-American youth committed to civil rights. The Chicana/o Movement was at its deepest level a movement of social justice and cultural identity, where the right to land, language, education, and working wages was marked by an overriding theme of cultural reclamation.  Many of these issues surrounding immigration, border politics, and cultural citizenship have arisen again today in a new era of immigrant concern.

Diego Rivera; Two Workers, 1938; Ink on paper, Collection of the Whatcom Museum, gift of the estate of William J. Eisner, 1975.110.39.

Within the context of the Chicana/o Movement for social justice, artists took their places in creating images and forms of art that would help enlist others in this movement for human rights. The work of individual artists and collectives was often anchored in community-based organizations such as the Galeria de la Raza, The Mexican Museum of San Francisco, Self-Help Graphics, the Social and Public Art Center, Plaza de la Raza in Los Angeles, and Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego. Across the country, the Guadalupe Center in San Antonio, the Mi Raza Center in Illinois, and later the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Chicago, as well as El Centro de la Raza in Seattle, provided a base for individual artists and collectives. The seminal exhibition, Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation of the early 1990s, brought many of the artworks, centros, and collectives to a broader national awareness. Read more