Making Muralist Jokes: Asco’s Contestation of the Mural and its Challenge to Chicano/a Aesthetics
University of Utah
Published in Utah Historical Review, Vol IV.
The onset of the Chicano civil rights movement in the United States saw the rise of one of the most emblematic forms of public, monumental art: Muralism. The Chicano/a artists that aimed to highlight issues pertaining to their communities considered the Mexican Mural Movement of the 1920s-30s-and its tropes, icons, and codified histories-a direct predecessor. Soon thereafter, many Chicano/a artists began to construct a strong sense of identity through their work. Although Muralism, the Chicano medium form par excellence, was an empowering form of community social art and visibility, many Chicano/a artists found its impositions on Chicano/a identity limiting and constricting because it established an “official” form of Chicano/a art making. Active from 1972-1985, the Chicano conceptual avant-garde group Asco sought to redefine the confines of Chicano/a art-making by clashing the established parameters of traditional Chicano/a culture with clandestine and ephemeral art making, thus questioning the veracity of a fixated, or rather walled, Chicano/a identity. Asco deconstructed the artistic limitations the Chicano/a art conventions of their time imposed on them and approached the static medium of Muralism through public performances, interventions, happenings, site appropriation, and graffiti. Through a study of their approach to Muralism, this paper aims to demonstrate Asco’s challenge to the medium and how it successfully expanded and redefined the possibilities of creating Chicano/a art.