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“A True Barrio” by Edy (Eddie Ytuarte) is part essay, part interview. Edy introduces the essay with a brief review of the work by Harry Gamboa, Gronk, and Willie Herrón exhibited at Mechicano Art Gallery in East Los Angeles in 1972. The author follows with an interview with Gamboa, Gronk, Herrón, and Patssi Valdez—all four members of what would be known as the artist collective ASCO—where the artists discuss why their work is Chicano. According to them, their art is considered Chicano because is made by Chicanos, depicts the suffering of Chicanos, thus displaying a certain fatalism associated with Mexican philosophy. Ultimately, the artists consider their work to be Chicano because they do not rely on outside (i.e., non-Chicano) artistic influences, but rather, influence one another. 


Conducted in 1972, this essay/interview was published before the artists Gamboa, Gronk, Herrón and Valdez became known as ASCO, a visual and performance art group that was active in Los Angeles in the 1970s and ‘80s. ASCO used conceptual art to draw attention to the socio-economic living conditions in East LA and the racist, negative portrayal of Chicanos in the media. While Herrón and Valdez address Edy’s questions, Gronk and Gamboa responses are clearly playful and irreverent, a ploy they employed repeatedly in interviews. The article includes good examples of the graphic work done individually and collectively by the group. As documentation of their exhibition at Mechicano Art Gallery in 1972, the article describes the tension between two groups and their opposing ideologies: the art of ASCO members was seen by some Chicano artists—including those of Mechicano—as not truly “Chicano” and ASCO, on the other hand, deemed Mechicano artists as “old school;” in other words, too nationalistic and artistically limiting. It is noteworthy that this article appears in a community paper from San Bernardino, a small rural city east of Los Angeles. As such, it brings to the fore the importance of community newspaper in the dissemination of information regarding Chicano art, especially during the first decade of the Chicano Movement (1965-75) when it was tied closely to advancing the Chicano Movement’s sociopolitical agenda.  

Tere Romo
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Courtesy of El Chicano Newspaper, San Bernardino, CA