Carlos Almaraz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Carlos Almaraz
Carlos Almaraz (1941–1989).png
Almaraz in 1979
Born(1941-10-05)October 5, 1941
Mexico City, Mexico
DiedDecember 11, 1989(1989-12-11) (aged 48)
Alma materOtis College of Art and Design
MovementChicano art movement
Spouse(s)Elsa Flores

Carlos D. Almaraz (October 5, 1941 – December 11, 1989)[1][2][3] was a Mexican-American artist and a pioneer of the Chicano art movement.

Early life and education[edit]

Almaraz was born on October 5, 1941, in Mexico City, Mexico to parents Rose and Rudolph Almaraz.[4][3][5] His family moved when he was a young child, settling in Chicago, Illinois, where his father owned a restaurant for five years and worked in Gary steel mills for another four. The neighborhood Almaraz and his brothers Rudolph Jr. and Ricky were raised in was multicultural, which led him to appreciate the melting pot of American culture.[6] During his youth in Chicago, the family traveled to Mexico City frequently, where Almaraz reports having his "first impression of art" that "was both horrifying and absolutely magical", in other words "Sublime".

When Almaraz was age nine, his family moved to Los Angeles[7] on a doctor's recommendation that his father seek a warm climate to assuage his rheumatism, and also as a result of family problems, first settling in Wilmington, later moving to the then-rural Chatsworth, where they lived in communal housing with other Mexicans.[6] The family then relocated to Beverly Hills, and later to the barrio of East Los Angeles. Almaraz's interest in the arts, nascent in Chicago, blossomed after his family moved to California, and the sense of mobility developed after so many moves later allowed him to connect with migrant farmworkers and their children.

He graduated from Garfield High School in 1959[8] and attended Los Angeles City College, studying under David Ramirez, and took summer classes at Loyola Marymount University. Loyola offered him a full scholarship, but he declined it in protest of the university's support of the Vietnam War and stopped professing the Catholic faith altogether. He attended California State University, Los Angeles (CalState LA), where he befriended Frank Romero.[9]

He became discouraged by the structure of the art department at CalState LA. Almaraz began attending night courses at the Otis College of Art and Design (then known as Otis Art Institute), studying under Joe Mugnaini.[6] In 1974, he earned an MFA degree from the Otis College of Art and Design.[2][10]

Almaraz studied arts at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).


A sketch of Carlos Almaraz holding a child, by Carlos Almaraz (1976)

In 1965, Almaraz moved to New York City,[8] with Dan Guerrero, the son of Lalo Guerrero. He left after six months to take advantage of a scholarship offered him by Otis Art Institute. He returned to New York and lived there from 1966 to 1969, where he struggled as a painter in the middle of the New Wave movements of the era.

While in New York, he also wrote poetry and philosophy. Almaraz's poems and philosophical views have been published in fifty books.

After returning to California, Almaraz almost died in 1971, and was given the last rites. It has been said that he had an experience with God during his convalescence.[11] By 1972, he was already involved with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW).[12]

In 1973, he was one of four artists who formed the influential artist collective known as Los Four. In 1974, Judithe Hernández, who was a friend and classmate from graduate school at Otis Art Institute became the fifth member and the only woman in Los Four.[13] With the addition of Hernández, the collective exhibited and created public art together for the next decade and have been credited with bringing Chicano art to the attention of mainstream American art institutions. He also painted for Luis Valdez's Teatro Campesino.[6] Some of his murals are heavily influenced by the actos from Teatro Campesino.[12]

His "Echo Park" series of paintings, named after a Los Angeles park of the same name, became known worldwide and have been displayed in many museums internationally. On November 12, 1978, Almaraz wrote "Because love is not found in Echo Park, I'll go where it is found".[11] While Almaraz may not have found love at Echo Park, he certainly found inspiration to produce paintings there: he lived close to the park, having a clear view of the park from his apartment's window.[6]

Another of Almaraz's works, named "Boycott Gallo", became a cultural landmark in the community of East Los Angeles.[6] During the late 1980s, however, "Boycott Gallo" was brought down.

Personal life[edit]

Almaraz was public about being queer, and it was documented in his journals (which were later made public).[8][14][15]

In 1981, Almaraz married Elsa Flores, a Chicana artist.[16][8] Together, the pair produced "California Dreamscape". They had one daughter.[8]

Death and legacy[edit]

Carlos Almaraz died on December 11, 1989, of AIDS-related causes at the Sherman Oaks Community Hospital, in Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles.[17][5]

He is remembered as an artist who used his talent to bring critical attention to the early Chicano Art Movement, as well as a supporter of Cesar Chávez and the UFW. His work continues to enjoy popularity. In 1992 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art honored him with a tribute featuring 28 of his drawings and prints donated by his widow.[18] Flores continues to represent his estate.

An exhibition of his paintings, pastels, and drawings from the 70s and 80s opened in September 2011, in conjunction with the Getty Research Institute's "Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980". Almaraz will also be featured in corresponding "Pacific Standard Time" exhibitions, including "MEX/LA: Mexican Modernism(s) in Los Angeles 1930-1985" at the Museum of Latin American Art, "Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement" at the Fowler Museum.[19]

Almaraz was the subject of am 85 minute documentary, Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire (2020), which was directed by his widow Elsa Flores Almaraz, and actor and filmmaker Richard Montoya.[20]

Almaraz and Flores's papers are preserved at the Smithsonian.[21]

Notable work[edit]

Murals by Almaraz
Year Title Artist(s) Type Location Notes
1974 No Compre Vino Gallo (Boycott Gallo Wine) Carlos Almaraz mural All Nations Neighborhood Center, East Los Angeles, California This mural no longer exists.[22]
1976 Adelita or La Adelita Carlos Almaraz, Judithe Hernández mural Ramona Gardens Housing Project, East Los Angeles, California In the center of the mural is a woman with a red scarf (presumably named Adelita) and on both sides of her is text written in Spanish.[23] The work is signed as the "Los Four".
1979 Return of the Maya John Valadez, Glenna Boltuch Avila, Barbara Carrasco, Carlos Almaraz mural 3400 North Figuaroa Street (near Amabel Street) Highland Park, Los Angeles, California Estimated at 18 feet by 200 feet in size.[24]
c.1990 California Dreamscape Carlos Almaraz, Elsa Flores Almaraz mural Ronald Reagan State Building (lobby), 300 Spring Street, Los Angeles, California [25]

Examples of Almaraz's work can be found in Cheech Marin's collection of Chicano art housed at The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Carlos Almaraz". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Archived from the original on 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  2. ^ a b "Carlos Almaraz Biography". Artnet. Archived from the original on 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  3. ^ a b Unterburger, Amy L.; Delgado, Jane L. (1990). Who's who Among Hispanic Americans. Gale Research. p. 423. ISBN 978-0-8103-7451-5.
  4. ^ Nieto, Margarita (1987-01-29). "Oral history interview with Carlos Almaraz, 1986 February 6-1987 January 29 – Transcript". Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  5. ^ a b "Carlos Almaraz, Chicano Muralist". The Sacramento Bee. 15 December 1989. p. 72. Retrieved 2021-02-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Oral history interview with Carlos Almaraz, 1986 Feb. 6-1987 Jan. 29, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution". Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  7. ^ Durón, Maximilíano (2020-10-15). "New Carlos Almaraz Documentary Is an Eye-Opening Portrait of an Artist Lost Too Soon". Archived from the original on 2020-10-17. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  8. ^ a b c d e Wilson, William (1992-06-27). "The Troubled Gift of Carlos Almaraz : Art: LACMA is showing the work of the late Chicano artist who was torn between social activism and the urge for individual artistic freedom". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-02-23. still conflicted by his homosexuality{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Miranda, Carolina A. (2017-03-09). "Chicano art pioneer Frank Romero is still painting, still loves cars and still defends ugly palm trees". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2017-03-09. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  10. ^ "Carlos Almaraz". Otis College of Art and Design. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  11. ^ a b Turner, Nancy Kay. "Carlos Almarez". Archived from the original on 2000-03-02. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  12. ^ a b Barnet-Sanchez, Holly (2012). "Radical Mestizaje in Chicano/a Murals". In Anreus, Alejandro; Folgarait, Leonard; Greeley, Robin Adele Greeley (eds.). Mexican Muralism: A Critical History. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. pp. 254–256. ISBN 9780520271616.
  13. ^ "Oral history interview with Judithe Hernández, 1998 Mar. 28, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution". Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Carlos Almaraz's art was steeped in the dualities of sexual and ethnic identity". Southern California Public Radio. 2017-08-21. Archived from the original on 2017-08-22. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  15. ^ "Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. 2017-12-01. Archived from the original on 2017-12-02. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  16. ^ "Carlos Almaraz: Other Voices". LACMA. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  17. ^ Oliver, Myra (1989-12-14). "C. Almaraz, 48; Chicano Artist of Urban Scene". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2020-10-03. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  18. ^ Snow, Shauna (1 April 1992). "LACMA Sets Tribute to Carlos Almaraz : Art: The upcoming showcase features 28 drawings and prints donated by the artist's widow, plus two of his major paintings. The exhibition opens in June". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ "Pacific Standard Time at the Getty".
  20. ^ Miranda, Carolina A. (2020-10-03). "Essential Arts: The short, bright life of L.A. painter Carlos Almaraz in new Netflix doc". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2020-10-03. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  21. ^ "Carlos Almaraz and Elsa Flores papers, 1946-1996". Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  22. ^ Radway, Carol; Tilly, Christopher (February 11, 1975). "Gallo Boycott: The UFW merits student support". The Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Crimson, Inc., Harvard University. Archived from the original on 2013-08-07. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  23. ^ Romero, Rolando (2005). Feminism, Nation and Myth: La Malinche. Arte Publico Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-61192-042-0.
  24. ^ Barnet-Sanchez, Holly; Drescher, Tim (2016-12-15). Give Me Life: Iconography and Identity in East LA Murals. University of New Mexico Press. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-8263-5748-9.
  25. ^ "Los Angeles Murals: Red Line Tour". Discover Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2019-07-25. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  26. ^ "The Cheech Marin Collection". The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry of the Riverside Art Museum. Riverside Art Museum. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.

External links[edit]