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.
This is a curatorial statement published in the catalog for the 1977 exhibition Dále Gas: Chicano Art of Texas. The exhibition’s curator, Santos Martinez, Jr., defines the term “Chicano” as referring to a highly politicized, radical ideological position among Mexican Americans. He details the social and psychological motivations that led to the rise of the Chicano Movement in the 1960s, highlighting the contributions of César Chavez, Reies Lopez Tijerina, Rodolfo (Corky) Gonzales, and José Angel Gutierrez to its development. Martinez considers the participation of these men and the events to which they and others were reacting in order to establish a framework in which to understand the political and social resonances of Chicano art. He suggests that Chicano art first appeared in what he calls three “basic modes,” manifested primarily in poster art and murals, which were considered to be examples of protest art; an art of historical awareness; and an art advocating cultural autonomy. Martinez identifies Mel Casas and Luis Jimenez as precursors to the Chicano art movement, emphasizing the influence of having Texas roots in their works. As the focus of the show, Martinez discusses the wealth of artistic production that developed in Texas, particularly in San Antonio, noting the vibrant presence of such collectives as Con Safo and others. He devotes the remainder of the essay to commenting briefly on the works of several individual artists featured in the exhibition, including César Martinez, Amado Peña, Roberto Rios, Jesus Treviño, Frank Fajardo, Jose Riveria, and Jorge Truan. Finally, Martinez calls for Chicano art to be evaluated on the basis of its visual merits rather than what he terms its “token ethnic values,” and suggests that a change in attitude on the part of Chicano artists has manifested itself in their works, signaling the beginning of a new era in Chicano art.
Santos Martinez, Jr. was an artist and chief curator at Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum, a rarity even now and more so in the 1970s. With Dalé Gas, his first major exhibition, he set out to provide the public with a large survey of Chicano art not limited by any political ideology or imagery. The show is very important as the first major exhibition of Chicano art in Texas and for its favorable positive reviews from the mainstream press, including The Houston Post art critic Mimi Crossley. Martinez’s essay is comprehensive in its history of the Chicano movement in Texas and the genesis of Chicano art. Equally valuable is the depth of information on Texas artists and collectives, mainly Con Safo and their seminal impact on Chicano art’s development in Texas. Martinez also provides a timely assessment of the divergent artistic approaches that Chicano artists were taking, documenting Chicano art’s aesthetic diversity by the mid-1970s.