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In this essay, Alicia Gaspar de Alba reviews nine post-1990 exhibitions of Chicano art, all of which have sought to “materialize” Chicano/a from within the mainstream art museum, or as she calls it, the “master’s house.” The exhibitions reviewed are: Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985 (CARA); The Chicano Codices: Encountering the Art of the Americas; Ceremony of Spirit: Nature and Memory in Contemporary Latino Art; Xicano Progeny: Investigative Agents, Executive Council, and Other Representatives from the Sovereign State of Aztlán; From the West: Chicano Narrative Photography; Art of the Other Mexico: Sources and Meanings; La Frontera/The Border: Art about the Mexico/United States Border Experience; Across the Street: Self-Help Graphics and Chicano Art in Los Angeles; and East of the River: Chicano Art Collectors Anonymous. Gaspar de Alba begins her essay with a brief background of the Chicano art movement, comparing Chicano art to the work of the Mexican muralists of the 1920s and 30s. According to her, the two main concerns of Chicano art involve national identity and social revolution, just like the art of the post-Revolutionary Mexican School. She provides a review of each exhibition and concludes that they share a unifying motto—“make room for Chicano/a art”—and that these shows demonstrate that Chicano/a art rightfully occupies a place within American art.
Alicia Gaspar de Alba is a professor of Chicano Studies at UCLA focusing on Chicano/a art, pop culture, literature, and writing. She began her engagement with Chicano art by means of her seminal book, Chicano Art: Inside/Outside the Master’s House (1998), which was based on her PhD dissertation. It explored how the CARA exhibition mirrored and served as a model for the cultural and gender politics of the Chicano Movement. In her essay, Gaspar de Alba includes a review of CARA (as the starting point) and continues through a decade of exhibitions, concluding with East of the River (2000). Aside from a valuable historical overview of the major Chicano shows created for national exposure, her essay provides insightful comparisons between the exhibitions themselves and also in relation to each organizer’s intent.