Brief history and significance
The Chicano artist collective Los Four originally consisted of Frank Romero, Carlos Almaraz, Roberto de la Rocha and founder Gilbert Luján. Judithe Hernández became the official fifth member of Los Four after the group's history-making exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Judithe Hernández had become acquainted with Carlos Almaraz when they attended graduate school at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and he introduced her to the group. The addition of Judithe Hernández as the "fifth" member of Los Four made Los Four one of only two major Chicano artist collectives to include a woman, the other being ASCO (Willie Herron, Harry Gamboa, Jr., Gronk, and Patssi Valdez).
In writing about the early history of Chicano art in his Reflection on the Chicano Art Movimiento, A Primer: by Armando Vazquez he wrote, "In Los Angeles there were two seminal art groups that would forge a new Chicano art sensibility; the first was Los Four, which included the late Carlos Almaraz, Gilbert (Magu) Lujan, Roberto (Beto) de la Rocha and Frank Romero; later the collective would include Judithe Hernández and John Valadez. Los Four were the intellectual vanguard of the Chicano art movement of the early 1970's. It is safe to say that this grouping of artists, known collectively as Los Four, "legitimized" Chicano art in the Anglo American art world and inspired the younger Chicanada to forge ahead with a school of art that would come to be known as Chicano Art. Today, Frank Romero, Carlos Almaraz, Gilbert Lujan, Judithe Hernández, and John Valadez represent a group of Chicano artists that have obtained international respect and are admired by producing original and exceptional bodies of work throughout their artistic careers. Los Four opened the commercial door to all in the Chicano art world."
Although, after the untimely death of Carlos Almaraz in 1989, the group has shown together less actively, the remaining members were renunited in 1994 for an exhibition entitled Los Four: Twenty Years Later. All of the members of Los Four have enjoyed successful solo careers as visual artists and have exhibited extensively in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Each artist of this historically significant group is responsilble for bringing well-deserved recognition to Chicano Art and, in no small way, helped pave the way for the Chicano/Latino artists that have followed.
Individual artworks by Carlos Almaraz, Judithe Hernández, Frank Romero, Gilbert Luján, and Roberto de la Rocha have been exhibited in museums in France, Sweden, Spain, Japan, England, and other countries.
Exhibitions and murals
After having had well-received exhibitions in the Los Angeles area, the group's breakthrough came when LACMA made the decision to mount a major Los Four exhibition titled Los Four: Almaraz, de la Rocha, Lujan, Romero (Feb. 26–Apr. 7, 1974). In doing so, LACMA became the first mainstream museum to recognize the importance of Chicano Art as a unique school of American art.
Along with their exhibitions, the members of Los Four are responsible for many of the most well-known murals of the period. Frank Romero painted several murals around Los Angeles, including Going to the Olympics on a wall of the Hollywood Freeway in downtown Los Angeles.
Judithe Hernández painted no fewer than nine murals in the Los Angeles area between 1968 and 1983, and she collaborated on two with Carlos Almaraz. She was one of the artists who created the first 1000 feet of the Great Wall of Los Angeles mural in 1976, and she was commissioned in 1981 by the Los Angeles Bicentennial Committee to paint the official mural commemorating the founding of the City of Los Angeles in 1781.
Carlos Almaraz also painted numerous significant murals in the Los Angeles area. With John Valadez, he painted the 200-foot-long Return of the Maya in Cypress Park, La Adelita in the Ramona Gardens Housing Project with Judithe Hernández, and California Dreamscape (completed after his death). He also painted murals for Cesar Chavez and the United Farmer Workers Union.
- Roberto de la Rocha is the father of alternative metal band Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha.
- Gilbert "Magu" Luján was commissioned as artistic director for Hollywood/Vine Metro Red Line Subway Station in Los Angeles.
- Transcript of interview with Carlos Almaraz from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
- Transcript of interview with Judithe Hernández from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
- Transcript of interview with Gilbert Lujan from the Smithsonian Archives of American Artists
- Transcript of interview with Frank Romero from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
- The Art of Aztlan Directory of Artists