The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, author and artist Harry Gamboa, Jr. presents a series of episodes recalling the public performances in Los Angeles of the collective, ASCO. The text also highlights memories of violence and suffering in the writer’s neighborhood from the 1970s to the present. Gamboa begins by recounting the 1972 silent procession by ASCO, Stages of the Double Cross, which was their first public street performance protesting the Vietnam War. In the second episode, Gamboa Jr. chronicles an interruption by ASCO of the 1974 Day of the Dead celebration in Evergreen Cemetery, which included him and fellow ASCO artists Willie Herrón, Patssi Valdez, Gronk, and Humberto Sandoval. The next sections discuss the life of Gerardo Velázquez—a composer who Gamboa photographed in 1991 and who died of AIDS within a few months of the photo session. Velázquez’s photo is part of a larger series titled, Chicano Male Unbound, that was shot between 1991 and 2001 of 150 Chicano men who influenced Gamboa’s perception of the world. In closing, He expresses concern about the violence and poverty in Los Angeles as well as the political corruption, and he asserts that it is his duty as an artist to document the “life and deaths of Chicano culture.”
As part of the seminal art collective, ASCO, Gamboa participated in Conceptual and performance art that questioned stereotypes of Chicanos in the media. He later became a prolific writer, photographer, and filmmaker after the group disbanded in the 1980s. This essay was commissioned for The Mexican Museum exhibition catalogue, Chicanos en Mictlán: Día de los Muertos en California, which traced the initiation and development of All Souls’ Day as Chicano observances in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The catalogue and exhibition—which was curated by Tere Romo in 2000—were the first to document and present the history and art of the Dia de los Muertos, as reinterpreted by Chicano artists in the United States. For this essay, Gamboa utilized his unique literary style that mixes biting satire with humor to revisit ASCO, along with his personal artistic involvement in this iconic source of Chicano art, at the same time reaffirming the importance of artists’s social responsibility.