Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art
For the last couple of days, the Mexican Museum has been an exciting place to be because they’re going through a process of approval for a new museum site. The site will be located in an area with a large Latino community where the exhibitions can have a new audience with an invested interest in the subject matter. The museum received initial approval for the location this week and continues to raise funds for their new building.
Last week, I worked on the Rex May exhibition that I mentioned in the last blog entry, but this week I was given the opportunity to do more research in Chicano art in general. It was sure overwhelming, as I researched a couple of artists in the bay area and kept track of their biography, art, and the organizations in which they participated. It was fascinating learn more about the groups they established! From what I learned, most of them are located within the community and serve the community. One example, the Galeria de la Raza, is a non-profit community-based arts organization whose mission is to bring public awareness and appreciation of Chicano/Latino art in the visual, media, literacy, and performing art fields. The Galeria has exhibited artists since 1970 and was founded by Chicano artists and community activists.
I visited with Rio Yañez a few days ago. He is a Chicano artist who has been surrounded by artists since he was a little baby! He is the son of two well-known artists: Rene Yañez and Yolanda Lopez. He even gave me a small tour of the area filled with a great amount of murals!! Public art in the form of murals or prints appear throughout the city. His current exhibition is called Pocho Adventure Club. His work combines Chicano iconography with his personal “mythologies” derived from comic books. One of his images shows a traditional figure like Frida Kahlo wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt! His work made me more aware of how much contemporary Chicano art has changed in the last fifteen years or so.
I took a bus to Sacramento to visit Malaquias Montoya at the end of the third week. I feel he is one of the figures that made Chicano art possible. Before the interview, he showed me around his organization Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer that also serves the community. Malaquias and his son, Maceo Montoya teach printmaking for a high school and some college students. As they continue to do their own art, their mission is also to teach the new generation about printmaking and Chicano art. In his home, the walls were covered with his art and his son’s art! I felt welcome as he told me stories from the past surrounded by this truly beautiful art. Malaquias Montoya may have a great reputation as an artist, but he never lost his sense of humanity. He is surprisingly humble. My comfort was only increased as he spoke in English and Spanish! His never-ending passion for the community showed in his tone of voice. Malaquias’s art is meant to serve as a voice for the voiceless by addressing many issues such as injustice, empowerment, and international causes. After our interview, he told me that he was glad that I was doing this research about Chicano art, because he feels it needs to be documented in the field of art history. I hope my interviews will contribute to the field and bring recognition of the contributions of these artists to the Midwest.