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This document by artist Carlos Almaraz looks at the relationship between art (namely muralism) and social inequality, with specific attention paid to the potential role of the political image in empowering marginalized groups and challenging accepted standards of artistic expression. Almaraz begins by detailing his own experiences as a muralist, focusing on particular commissions for the United Farm Workers (UFW) of America and the effects these works had on his personal political consciousness. He argues for the use of art as a revolutionary weapon and challenges artists and audiences to embrace the political image and move away from the idea of “art for art’s sake.” Almaraz discusses the current art market and its detrimental effect on artistic freedom as a result of its exclusion of artists working outside accepted boundaries. He ends with a discussion of how theories of guerilla warfare can be applied to art, encouraging the development of a revolutionary consciousness alongside artistic skill with the aim of freeing art from the establishment and reclaiming it for all people.
The essay was published in Chismearte, a literary and art journal designed and produced by the Concilio de Arte Popular (CAP), a statewide association of California Chicano art centers and collectives. Carlos Almaraz (1941-89) was the journal staff designer and secretary/treasurer. Though not presented as such, his essay functions as a political manifesto and as an articulation of the role of the artist in promoting the Chicano Movement’s socio-political agenda. It also documents several international influences, including Marxist beliefs and the Cuban Revolution, which had a great impact on Almaraz’s early art production. In the mid-1980s, his art received mainstream recognition and he garnered gallery success until his sudden and early death.