In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Chicana/o Art

  • Introduction
  • Archival Work and Bibliographies
  • Artist Groups
  • Prints and Poster Art Production
  • Art Books and Codices
  • Performance Art
  • Collecting, Museums, and Exhibition Practice

Art History Chicana/o Art
Constance Cortez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 June 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0014


The history of Chicana/o art is a relatively new field. The emergence of scholarly treatments of Chicana/o art—art produced by American artists of Mexican descent who self-identify as Chicanas/os—coincided with the Chicano movement (el movimiento) of the 1960s and 1970s. As is the case for many Latinas/os (Americans of Latin American descent), for Chicanas/os, this period marked a watershed in political activities and in the growing desire for self-determination and solidarity. Thus, many early scholars of Chicana/o art focused primarily on the political implications of the artwork vis-à-vis national dialogues regarding race, education, and labor equity. Over the last five decades, scholarly examinations of art works and artists have become more heterogeneous in format as well as methodological approach. This is, in part, a result of the backgrounds of the writers themselves, most of whom are not from art-historical backgrounds. Anthropologists, historians, artists, film critics, psychologists, and collectors have all contributed to the shape of the current discourse on Chicana/o art. However, while educational training may vary, many of these scholars come from activist backgrounds, and all of them are invested in the unique visions of the American experience put forward by the artists. Further, it can be argued that these educational dissimilarities themselves actually enhance the dynamic of the scholarship, and that they reflect an intracultural diversity found in the art forms and their practitioners. Another factor impacting the Chicana/o scholarship is the geographic location of the artists themselves, who come from communities throughout the United States. Most Chicanas/os live in the Southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California), but there is also a significant, more recently arrived, population in Chicago. The development and the choices of visual vocabulary utilized by artists is influenced by contemporary and, sometimes, colonial histories and experiences, all of which vary from region to region and, sometimes, from city to city. Further, since most Chicanas/os make their homes in large urban areas, the scholarship seems to be focused on art production in large cities, such as Los Angeles or San Antonio. Ultimately, this weight given to urban centers has had the effect of precluding the production of more in-depth explorations of artwork produced by artists located in smaller towns and rural areas. Scholarly diversity and the intracultural diversity of Chicanas/os clearly impact the methodological and historical trajectory of the field. The historic venues for scholarship differ markedly from more established art-historical fields. While surveys of artists and art (in Italian Renaissance studies, for instance) begin almost with the inception of the period, surveys of Chicana/o art and artists are much more recent. With the exception of a single publication in (Quirarte 1973, cited under General Overviews), all date from the late 1980s. This situation, in part, is connected to patronage and the art market. The recent growth in survey texts is also clearly reflective of the growth in Chicano studies programs as well as of the changing demographics of Latinas/os in the United States. The principal vehicle for scholarly literature has been exhibition catalogues, a constant presence since the inception of the Chicano movement. Initially, catalogues and exhibitions were produced and hosted by small community-based galleries and centers. Since the 1990s, exhibitions and catalogue production are now part of the programming of major museums. As collecting and exposure increased, so too did the publication of monographs and articles on various aspects of Chicana/o Art.

General Overviews

Included here are books and articles that introduce the reader to the works of multiple artists in a variety of ways. Cockcroft and Canning 2000 gives a view of Chicana/o art within the larger context of Latina/o art. Volumes such as Sentis and Vargas 2007; Keller, et al. 2002; Keller, et al. 2004; and Keller and Phillips 2005 are oriented more towards the visual rather than the historical. The publication of traditional historical surveys of the subject began with Quirarte 1973, a seminal work. More recently, Jackson 2009 thematically contextualizes politically driven works of the past and present, while Vargas 2000 and Vargas 2010 open up the discussion to include nonpolitical production and the global contexts of art.

  • Cockcroft, James D., and Jane Canning. Latino Visions: Contemporary Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American Artists. New York: Franklin Watts, 2000.

    In this volume, Cockcroft and Canning offer a good introduction to the artwork of three of the largest Latino groups in the United States. The approach is both chronological as well as regional. Aimed at a broad audience, the bibliography is abbreviated.

  • Jackson, Carlos Francisco. Chicana and Chicano art: ProtestArte. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009.

    In this textbook aimed at undergraduate students, Jackson presents Chicana/o visual culture both chronologically and thematically while integrating significant historical and political events into the discourse. At the end of each chapter, he offers discussion questions and a list of “Suggested Readings.” A vocabulary is also included at the back of the book. While images presented in this volume exemplify themes and issues covered by Jackson, they are all in black and white.

  • Keller, Gary D., Joaquín Alvarado, Kaytie Johnson, and Mary Erickson. Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art: Artists, Works, Culture, and Education. 2 vols. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Review Press, 2002.

    The first two volumes of a lavishly illustrated four volume project, these two volume set introduces the works of 194 contemporary artists arranged alphabetically and their profiles. Interspersed amid them are various themes found in Chicano/a art.

  • Keller, Gary D., Mary Erickson, Pat Villeneuve, et al. Chicano Art for Our Millennium: Collected Works from the Arizona State University Community. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Review Press, 2004.

    The third volume in the Chicano Art series, this volume is an exhibition catalogue for a touring exhibition first held at the Mesa Southwest Museum, Mesa, Arizona, 1 May–19 September 2004. It is organized according to theme, and the works of ninety artists are represented, with an explanation of each. Included as part of the text is an “Educator Resource” for teachers (pp. 155–191).

  • Keller, Gary D., and Amy K. Phillips. Triumph of Our Communities: Four Decades of Mexican American Art. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Review Press, 2005.

    This final volume in a series of four, this book foregrounds the community art organizations that promote the work of many artists. These are presented region by region.

  • Quirarte, Jacinto. Mexican American Artists. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973.

    One of the first scholarly volumes to survey the contributions of Mexican-American artists. Quirarte divides his book into two parts. The first considers the impact of visual, cultural, and historic antecedents, such as the pre-Columbian and colonial eras and the impact of the Mexican muralists. Quirarte introduces us the reader to the artists in chapters delimited by the artists’ birth dates, and he subdivides these chapters by discussions of each artist.

  • Sentis, Mireia, and George Vargas. Pintores de Aztlán. Madrid, Spain: Casa Encendida, 2007.

    This bilingual volume offers an overview of sixty artists working in East Los Angeles.

  • Vargas, George. “A Historical Overview/Update on the State of Chicano Art.” In Chicano Renaissance: Contemporary Cultural Trends. Edited by David Maciel, Isidro D. Ortiz, and María Herrera-Sobek, 191–231. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2000.

    Vargas traces Chicana/o art’s history and development. While noting thematic changes, he questions whether overt political agendas are necessary in art production. In a section entitled, “1990s: The Era of New Chicano Art” (pp. 207–225), he presents the works of seven artists and points to future directions through their innovative handling of themes and interdisciplinary methodologies.

  • Vargas, George. Contemporary Chican@ Art: Color and Culture for a New America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

    In this textbook, Vargas traces Chicana/o art from the 1960s until the present, including its evolution from movement-specific subject matter to more universal statements about global issues. Included is a chapter in which artists address their own work and the future direction of art within the community.

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