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Chicano Art

Chicano Art

Author: Ian McConnell

This lesson will present an overview of the Chicano Art Movement.

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An introduction to Chicano art.

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Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about Chicano art.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the influences on the development of the Chicano art movement, and identify examples of Chicano art.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Chicano-- Mexican-Americans, United States citizens of Mexican descent. Resquache-- a negative term to define low class or style. Also used in the Chicano arts movement as a reference to making the most with the least. Aztlan-- the traditional home of the Nahua, an important group of Mesoamericans.

The big idea for today is that the Chicano arts movement was influenced by the civil rights movement, American Indian Movement, and Chicano political movement. And we'll be looking at art today from between 1960 and 1982. We'll be travelling to San Francisco, where Ester Hernandez lives and works, over to Los Angeles, and down to San Diego today.

The development of the Chicano art movement was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, American Indian Movement, and the Chicano political movement of the 1960s, as I mentioned before. Now, the Civil Rights Movement was one of the most important events of the 20th century, because it opened the door for many other groups to reconsider their role in American society. Like other minority movements, the Chicano movement of the 1970s involved the struggle for Mexican Americans to be treated fairly and equally. In a similar fashion to American Indians, Mexican Americans had been subjected to segregation, had their land taken away, and experienced many other forms of injustice.

So in terms of art, Mexican muralist artists like Diego Rivera were important influences on the revival of muralism in Hispanic cultures and urban environments. The mural served as the perfect tool to tell the story of Mexican Americans and publicly portray aspects of their culture that were important to them. Chicano Park in San Diego is an example of a reclamation of land in a way for the Mexican American community in San Diego. Although it's in a highly-urban area beneath the busy highways and interstates of the San Diego metropolitan area, it was and remains an area of immense pride for Mexican Americans.

Now, this is an example of the rural movement that began in California in the late 1960s with the work of Antonio Bernal's Del Rey mural, one of the first examples of a mural in California. But his work was closely associated with farm workers and making connection between the Chicano movement and Black Civil Rights Movement. Now, this served as inspiration for later mural projects, like the Great Wall of LA, which involved local artists creating murals in order to beautify their neighborhoods and creating a form of art that was relevant to the community.

Now, Judith Baca was one of the first female muralists. And her project the Great Wall of LA is one of the most amazing artistic collaborations of the modern era, in my opinion, as it has spanned almost 40 years, several generations, and several thousand feet. The idea began in 1974, when the Army Corps of Engineers approached Judith Baca about a beautification project in a flood control channel.

Now, the surface was ideal, as it was an uninterrupted stretch of blank concrete that stretched on for miles. Now, what resulted over the next several decades was gradual expansion of the longest mural in the world, a mural which celebrated Hispanic culture and their integration within the American community. Now. its visual impact is perhaps only overshadowed by the social impact, as the beatification project has introduced art to and improved the lives of countless youths.

Now, the Chicano art movement developed in conjunction with the Chicano political movement. And expressed support for the Chicano political movement's offspring United Farm Workers Union co-founded by Cesar Chavez. The Chicano art movement expressed support for the political movements demonstrations through works of art or posters that advertise important events. Artwork also came in the form of strong public statements about the working conditions for farm workers.

Ester Hernandez's Sun Mad Raisins is a parody of a very-well recognized box design for Sun Maid Raisins. Hernandez is bringing to light the health consequences of agricultural production by the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, and the farm workers' exposure to them.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the influences on the development of the Chicano art movement? And can you identify examples of Chicano art?

And once again, the big idea for today is that the Chicano art movement was influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, the American Indian Movement, and Chicago political movement. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Chicano Art"


Judith Baca, Great Wall of LA, Creative Commons,  Esther Hernandez, Sun Mad Raisins, according to host (smithsonian american art museum) ok to use in videos because they are free and educational but not ok in assessements Chicano Park, Public Domain,; Image of Cesar Chavez Creative Commons 

Terms to Know

Aztlán The traditional home of the Nahua, an important group of Mesoamericans.


Mexican-Americans, United States citizens of Mexican descent.


A negative term to define low class or style. Also used in the Chicano arts movement as a reference to “making the most with the least.”