Roberto de la Rocha

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Beto de la Rocha (1974) During Los Four exhibition installation at LACMA

Roberto "Beto" de la Rocha (born 1942[citation needed]) is an American painter, graphic artist, and muralist.


Roberto de la Rocha was born in Wilmar, California[1] in 1942[citation needed] to Mexican American parents of Sephardi Jewish converso origin. He earned his Master's of Fine Arts at California State University, Long Beach.


In 1973, he joined the influential Chicano art collective Los Four. The group, composed of Carlos Almaraz, Frank E. Romero, Gilbert "Magu" Luján, and de la Rocha, was responsible for numerous murals and public art installations in the Los Angeles area. According to Luján, he and de la Rocha emphasized "indigenous and local" aspects of Chicano art, while the other two members were more interested in the European tradition.[2] The group was also one of the first to draw mainstream attention to Chicano art, exhibiting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1974.[3] According to Judithe Hernández, the first female member of Los Four, de la Rocha was also a "brilliant printmaker",[4] much whose imagery was drawn from "his [very fragile] mental state".[4]

Out of the limelight[edit]

After a few years with the group, he suffered a mental breakdown and destroyed his paintings. According to Almaraz, "he left the group under very, very terrible circumstances. He ended up going on 40-day fast and ended up at the psychiatric ward at the L.A. County Hospital, and came down with various illnesses dealing with the fast, and never really recovered. The last I had heard was that he was burning his work and basically denouncing art as being an act of the devil and not an act of God."[5] During this difficult time, he divorced his wife, left his job as a fine-arts instructor at East Los Angeles Community College and moved into his father's Lincoln Heights house. He went into seclusion for years, reading the Bible all day and rejecting art.[6]

Day of the dead[edit]

De la Rocha was also influential in reestablishing the traditional Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead in Los Angeles, when he, along with Chicano artist Gronk and a few others, led a procession from Evergreen Cemetery up First Street in East Los Angeles. Gilbert Luján later said that de la Rocha "should be given credit for initiating this process—almost single-handedly. And what he did, he didn’t get funding or he didn’t ask permission from anybody, he just went and did it." [2] According to The American Prospect, he was also the art editor of the United Farm Workers publication El Malcriado.[7] In 1974, de la Rocha, along with the other founding members of Los Four, was featured in a documentary entitled Los Four/Murals of Aztlan.[8] In 1999, de la Rocha had a joint showing with Los Angeles artist John Zender at La Luz gallery in Long Beach, California[9]


He was married to the anthropologist Olivia de la Rocha (born 1942), who he divorced in 1971. They are the parents of Rage Against the Machine vocalist and lyricist Zack de la Rocha (born January 12, 1970).[7]