Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation

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Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation (or CARA) was a traveling exhibit of Chicano/a artists which toured the United States from 1990 through 1993.[1] CARA visited ten major cities and featured over 128 individual works by about 180 different Chicano/a artists.[2] The show was also intended to visit Madrid and Mexico City.[3] CARA was the first time a Chicano exhibit received major attention from the press and it was the first exhibit that collaborated between Chicanos and major museums in the U.S.[4] The show was considered a "notable event in the development of Chicano art."[5] Another unique feature of CARA was the "extensive planning" that attempted to be as inclusive as possible and which took place more than five years prior to the opening at Wight Art Gallery.[6]

The final touring exhibit included paintings, murals and installations.[2] Over forty murals were shown via slideshow.[3] The first section of the show contained a short history of Chicanos going back to the pre-Columbian era, discussing the concept of Aztlán and including significant events up until 1965.[2] The other areas of the exhibit were divided into themes that were representative of the Chicano movement: Feminist Visions, Reclaiming the Past, Regional Expressions and Redefining American Art.[6] There were also three separate spaces devoted to the important Chicano collective arts movements, Asco, Los Four and the Royal Chicano Air Force.[4] Uniquely, at the time for a museum show, the art was shown in context with the history and politics of the Chicano movement.[7] In addition, the art shown in the exhibit was "created by Chicanos for other Chicanos."[8]

CARA's name is also a play on words since the Spanish word for face is cara.[9]


The CARA exhibit was created through the joint actions of the Wight Art Gallery at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the CARA National Advisory Committee.[8] These two groups started planning in 1984, but the idea for the exhibit began in 1983, when Cecelia Klein, Shifra Goldman, and several graduate students (Maria de Herrera, Holly Barnet-Sanchez and Marcos Sanchez-Tranquilino) asked the new director of the Wight Art Gallery, Edith Tonelli, about creating a unique Chicano art exhibit.[6] The Wight Art Gallery, with help from Klein and Goldman, applied for funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). They were originally turned down because the word "Chicano" made some of the backers "uncomfortable."[8][10] Other topics addressed by CARA, such as a critical stance on American cultural politics and the "myth of the melting pot" also intimidated the NEH.[10][11] A second try for funds from the NEH took place in 1985 and the term Chicano was carefully explained and outlined.[8] This time, after "considerable debate," funds were granted in 1986.[8] The disbursement of funds took some time, however, because of controversy in Congress about censorship, funding the arts and the proposed defunding of programs.[8] Eventually the Rockefeller Foundation stepped in and helped during the initial planning process and the implementation phases of the project.[8]

The project rejected the conventional structure of having a single curator for the art and chose instead to collaborate on control of the art and administration.[10] Those involved with the project were very careful to work with the Chicano community so that Chicanos could speak for themselves, rather than having an institution impose upon them.[8][12] This later allowed the exhibit to become more than just an art show, but rather an "extension of the ongoing efforts of the Chicano Movement."[4] To ensure that Chicano voices were heard, a large committee of over 40 Chicano scholars, artists and administrators was recruited and broken up into various committees to oversee, select, design and create regional task forces.[8] An "ongoing process of negotiation" was status quo for the project.[13]

The exhibit opened at Wight Art Gallery on September 9, 1990.[4]

As the show toured, there were some unique ways to promote local interest. At the El Paso Museum of Art, there was a lowrider parade that initiated the opening of the show and in addition, there were several works in CARA that contained images of lowriders.[14] The Albuquerque Museum of Art staged a lowrider car show on the opening day of the exhibit.[14]

CARA closed after its last engagement, which was at the Museum of Art in San Antonio, Texas.[4]


There were large crowds at the exhibition in every city.[15]

CARA challenged many art critics to look beyond what had been considered "mainstream" or "traditional" fine art.[16] The exhibition was successful in bringing new ideas to viewers.[17] It also challenged viewers and critics alike to see value in the intersection of politics and art.[16] The art was considered "complex" and "contentious" and also having a "vibrant agenda."[17] Some critics, in fact, conflated the politics of the art to such a degree that they felt the show was not about the art at all, but instead only about the message.[18] Other critics seemed uncomfortable with the art they were viewing.[15]

For Chicanos/as themselves, it was exciting and moving to see their own lives, culture, ideas and struggles reflected in art.[19] Many viewers and critics expressed the feeling that "at long last Chicanos could see themselves reflected and represented...a process of both aesthetic and political validation."[18] The exhibition inspired many young Latino people to look into their own genealogy and appreciate their Chicano roots.[20] CARA taught many non-Latino Americans about Chicano life, history, ideology and culture.[20] CARA also helped those in the U.S. learn to appreciate the nuanced differences between "Hispanic" and "Chicano."[3]


CARA challenged the mainstream art world to view Chicano art as an important art movement that stands on equal footing with other well-recognized art movements.[16] CARA also established Chicano art as something other than a "subculture"[21] though it was often feared that the Chicano art was displayed in an academic way that would "erode" or destroy the true meaning of the art.[22] Nevertheless, the subject matter of CARA stretched the boundaries of what traditionally could or should be shown in a museum setting.[9] The exhibition also succeeded at "imploding myths and stereotypes that said Chicanos had no image-making lineage, or that their work could not compete aesthetically, technically, or conceptually on a national and international level."[12]

CARA was the first exhibition of its type and set a standard for curatorial practices surrounding Chicano art and exhibits.[6][22] CARA would later be used as a "template" for creating other exhibits with Chicano artists.[12]

CARA also helped raise awareness that museums should learn to have a "close working relationship with the communities they represent," which means that there should be more diversity in the artwork shown by these organizations.[22] In addition to working with the community to represent more diversity, it also exposed other issues, such as corporate sponsorship in museums.[23] CARA also clearly demonstrated that there was still a critical bias towards men being represented more often than women in museums and in the arts.[10]

Artists who showed work with CARA, like Gaspar Enriquez, found that more of their art started selling as it gained more exposure in different markets.[24][25] Not all artists found themselves in the same situation, but for many, doors were opened in mainstream markets, collections, lecture circuits and museums.[18]

CARA also filled a void that was left when many Chicano art collectives began to break down.[26]

Artists and Venues[edit]




"We made valiant efforts to things through--every one of these sessions became a philosophical discussion...In fact, I feel like I've been through an incredible course in Chicanismo."—Judith Baca[8]

"I loved this exhibit. It's like looking in a mirror. It's really seeing the heart of my people."—Anonymous[15]

Read More[edit]

Castillo, Richard Griswold Del; McKenna, Teresa; Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne, eds. (1991). Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation. Los Angeles, California: Wight Art Gallery. pp. 26–32. ISBN 0943739152.


  1. ^ "Finding Aid for the CARA: Chicano Arts: Resistance and Affirmation Papers 1985 - 1994" (PDF). Online Archive of California. California Digital Library. 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Gaspar de Alba, Alicia (1998). Chicano Art Inside/Outside the Master's House: Cultural Politics and the CARA Exhibition (3rd, ed.). University of Texas Press (published 2003). ISBN 9780292788985. Archived from the original on 2016-06-10. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Ramos, Lydia (30 August 1990). "Touring Retrospective Examines Chicano Art". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2015-10-29. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gamez, Jose (30 October 2004). Candelaria, Cordelia C.; Aldama, Arturo J.; Garcia, Peter J., eds. Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume 1. Greenwood. pp. 104–105. ISBN 9780313332104.
  5. ^ Estrada, Henry C. "Tomás Ybarra-Frausto research material on Chicano art, 1965-2004". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Jackson, Carlos Francisco (14 February 2009). Chicana and Chicano Art: ProtestArte. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816526475.
  7. ^ Cockcroft, Eva Sperling (1993). "From Barrio to Mainstream: The Panorama of Latino Art". In Lomeli, Francisco; Kanellos, Nicolas; Esteva-Fabregat, Claudio. Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Literature and Art. Houston, Texas: Arte Publico Press. p. 194. ISBN 9781611921632. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Castillo, Richard Griswold Del; McKenna, Teresa; Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne, eds. (1991). "Preface: The CARA Exhibition". Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation. Los Angeles, California: Wight Art Gallery. pp. 26–32. ISBN 0943739152.
  9. ^ a b Meyer, Richard (27 February 2003). Representing the Passions: Histories, Bodies, Visions (Issues & Debates). Getty Research Institute. p. 261. ISBN 9780892366767. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Davalos, Karen Mary (15 November 2002). Exhibiting Mestizaje: Mexican (American) Museums in the Diaspora. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 9780826319005. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  11. ^ Wilson, Thomas H. (19 September 2004). "Chicano Art: Three Encounters". Chicano Art for Our Millennium. Mesa Southwest Museum. Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Lou, Richard A. (2000). The Secularization of the Chicano Visual Idiom: Diversifying the Iconography. Los Angeles, California: Plaza de la Raza. p. 17. Archived from the original on 2015-04-01. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  13. ^ Gonzales, Joseph Jason (2008). Complicated Business: Chicanos, Museums and Corporate Sponsorship. Temple University.
  14. ^ a b Tatum, Charles M. (22 July 2011). Lowriders in Chicano Culture: From Low to Slow to Show. Greenwood. pp. 108–109. ISBN 9780313381492. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Chang, Jeff (21 October 2014). Who We Be: The Colonization of America. St. Martin's Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 9780312571290.
  16. ^ a b c Acosta-Colon, Maria (24 September 1990). "Chicano Art: It's Time for a New Aesthetic . ." Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2015-09-04. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  17. ^ a b Cotter, Holland (4 April 1993). "Chicano Art: A Lustier Breed of Political Protest". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-26. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  18. ^ a b c Gaspar de Alba, Alicia (2001). "From CARA to CACA: The Multiple Anatomies of Chicano/a Art at the Turn of the New Century". Aztlán. 26 (1): 205–231. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  19. ^ Hurtado, Aida; Gurin, Patricia (1 May 2004). Chicana/o Identity in a Changing U.S. Society: QuiŽn Soy? QuiŽnes Somos? - Aõ_da Hurtado, Patricia Gurin - Google Books. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816522057. Archived from the original on 2016-05-21. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  20. ^ a b Vargas, George (15 February 2010). Contemporary Chican@ Art: Color and Culture for a New America. University of Texas Press. p. 78. ISBN 9780292721166.
  21. ^ "Chicano Art Inside/Outside the Master's House: Cultural Politics and the Cara Exhibition". Serendipity Literary Agency. Archived from the original on 2015-02-01. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  22. ^ a b c Alejandra, Reina; Saldivar, Prado (2003). "Arriving at the River's Edge: Curatorial Trends in L.A". Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives. Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 2015-02-23. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  23. ^ Perez, Laura E. (9 August 2007). Chicana Art. Duke University Press Books. ISBN 9780822338680.
  24. ^ Baron, Richard (15 January 2014). "Profile: Gaspar Enriquez". Newspaper Tree. Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  25. ^ Zanetell, Myrna (19 January 2014). "Art of 'El Barrio'". El Paso Inc. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  26. ^ Acosta, Teresa Palomo; Curlee, Kendall (12 June 2010). "Chicano Art Networks". Texas Handbook Online. Texas State Historical Association. Archived from the original on 2015-04-13. Retrieved 6 April 2015.