Harry Gamboa Jr.

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Harry Gamboa Jr.
Born 1951
Los Angeles
Known for Performance art, Photography
Website www.harrygamboajr.com

Harry Gamboa Jr. (born 1951) is a Chicano essayist, photographer, director and performance artist. He was a founding member of the influential Chicano performance art collective ASCO.


The first of five children born to a working-class Mexican American couple, Gamboa grew up in East Los Angeles, California, "an urban area tormented by poverty, violence, and racial conflict".[1] Despite the "inadequacy of the East L.A. public schools",[1] Gamboa was encouraged to value education and did fairly well in school, and he was active in community organizations and politics as a teenager. As a high-school student (graduated 1969), Gamboa was active in student government and an organizer of various student-initiated reforms, most significantly the 1968 "East L.A. Blowouts"—a series of protests against the inferior conditions of public schools in poor, non-white areas.[2]

Gamboa's extracurricular activities were not, however, limited to politics. Already a developing artist, it was at Garfield High that Gamboa met Gronk (Glugio Nicandro), Patssi Valdez (then known as Patsy), and Willie Herrón, three of his closest associates in his later career. After the "Blowouts" of his senior year, Gamboa dropped out of the political scene to dedicate himself to his education. Thanks to these efforts and with the help of the Equal Opportunities Program (EOP) for disadvantaged minority students, Gamboa was able to attend California State University, Los Angeles.

From this point, his career as an artist—both solo and with Gronk, Valdez, and Herrón in the art collective ASCO (Spanish for nausea) —"took off".[1] Among other "urban interventions," Asco sprayed their names on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[3]

Gamboa's work as a writer, photographer, film-maker, performance artist and multimedia creator of "things" is diverse, but in all his efforts (including those as a member of ASCO) his focus has been to reveal the absurdity of urban life and to confront both the dominant white culture and various perspectives within Chicano culture, pointing to the pain and alienation caused by both. This is often achieved by altering the media of the art itself, as opposed to just the subject matter. Gamboa's most significant 20th Century works include mail art of the 1970s, ASCO's "no movies," and the "urban operas" Ignore the Dents and Jetter's Jinx.

In 1993 Gamboa married his second wife, Chicana muralist Barbara Carrasco, after seven years of romantic and professional involvement.

The Getty Research Institute Pacific Standard Time initiative that focused on postwar art in Los Angeles featured the major exhibition, Asco: Elite of the Obscure, a retrospective, 1972-1987, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 4 - December 4, 2011.

ASCO: Elite of the Obscure, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA, February 4 - July 29, 2012.

Patrick Charpenel selected Asco: Elite of the Obscure as Mexico City’s Best, 2013, Art in America, (December 2013)

Gamboa's photograph, Decoy Gang War Victim, 1974, was featured on the cover of Artforum (October, 2011).

Michael Ned Holte selected, Asco: Elite of the Obscure, as his #1 pick for Best of 2011 in Artforum (December, 2011).

Christopher Knight selected, Asco: Elite of the Obscure, 2011 year in review: Best in Art, 2011 Los Angeles Times.

His work has been exhibited by museums nationally/internationally : Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016, 2015 and 1995 Biennial); Delaware Art Museum (2016); Utah Museum of Fine Arts (2015); Princeton University Art Museum (2015); Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporain, Bordeaux, France (2014); De Appel, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2014); Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Linz, Austria (2013); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, England (2013); Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. (2013); Le Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille, France (2013); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (UNAM), Mexico City (2013); Tate Liverpool, Liverpook, England (2013); Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (2011, 1981); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011, 2010); Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne, Switzerland (2009); Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA (2011); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England (2009); Museo de Arte Zapopan, Guadalajara, Mexico (2009); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2011, 2008, 2001); Fowler Museum, UC Los Angeles (2011); Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City (2008); Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles (2008); El Museo del Barrio, New York (2008, 2010); The Huntington Library, San Marino, California (2008); Museo José Luis Cuevas, Mexico City (2006); Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2006); Museo Nacional de la Estampa, Mexico City (2005); International Center of Photography, New York (2003); MIT List Visual Arts Center (2000); Queens Museum of Art (1999); Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. (1997); Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark (1996); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1994); Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (1994); LAX/CSU Los Angeles (1994); Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (1981); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1979); Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City (1978); Museo Alvar y Carmen T. Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (1978); Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ (1977).

He has received numerous awards from institutions including the Rockefeller Foundation (2004), the Durfee Foundation Artist Award (2001), the Flintridge Foundation Visual Artist Award (2000), the Gluck Foundation (1998–1999), the J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts (1990), the California Arts Council (1996), Art Matters, Inc. (1996), and National Endowment for the Arts (1987 and 1980).

2010 Latino Heritage Month was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by a wide spectrum of supporters in Council Chambers at the famed Los Angeles City Hall, where Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa presented the Latino Heritage Awards: Spirit of Los Angeles Willie Herrón III, Patssi Valdez, and Harry Gamboa Jr. accepted the award on behalf of Asco), Dream of Los Angeles Tony Plana, Hope of Los Angeles Plácido Domingo.

Latino Heritage in Los Angeles: Harry Gamboa Jr.

In 2005, Gamboa founded Virtual Vérité, an international ensemble performance troupe that he directs while producing fotonovela, audio drama, video, Internet, and live performance projects:

Sidewalk Quinceañera [1]

Calibre Libre [2]

Thin Line [3]

Borderless [4]

Current Exhibition

Human Interest: Portraits From The Whitney’s Collection [5]

April 27, 2016 – February 12, 2017

No Canary [6] 1977

Whitney Museum of American Art New York

He is a member of the faculty at California Institute of the Arts, School of Art, Program in Photography and Media.

He has taught at various universities and art institutions, including California State University, Northridge, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Riverside, University of California, Irvine, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of California, San Diego, Otis/Parsons, and Maine College of Art.

He has delivered artist talks at: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Harvard University; UC Berkeley; Stanford University; Dartmouth College; Cornell University; Scripps College, Claremont Graduate University; School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Centro Cultural de España, Mexico City; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; ; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado "La Esmeralda", Mexico City.

In Fall 2012, Universitair Centrum Sint Ignatius Antwerpen - UCSIA sponsored Gamboa to present, La La Land: Deflections and Recollections, an artist talk at Universiteit Antwerpen. He also worked with students and faculty of Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (Royal Academy of Fine Arts) along with Belgian artists Ria Pacquée and Nico Dockx to produce "actions" in Antwerpen and Brugge.

His photographs are in the permanent collection of Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

His photographs are in the permanent collection of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

His photographs are in the permanent collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

His photographs are in the permanent collection of Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, CA

His photographs are in the permanent collection of Wiliams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA.

His photographs are in the permanent collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY.

His lithographs are in the permanent collection of Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, University of California, Los Angeles.

His oral history is included in Smithsonian Archives of American Art (1999). His oral history is also included in Alternative Projections, Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945-1980, a project of Los Angeles Filmforum (2011).

A permanent collection of his media works/papers has been established and archived at Green Library, Stanford University.


Artist Books[edit]




Exhibition + Project Catalogues[edit]




  1. ^ a b c Stanford University. Guide to the Harry Gamboa Jr. Papers, 1968-1995. Biography. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
  2. ^ Acuña, Rodolfo F. (17 April 1996). Anything But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles. Verso. p. 13. ISBN 9781859840313. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Smith, Roberta. When the Conceptual Was Political. New York Times, February 1, 2008.

External links[edit]