From its inception in the 1960s to its present form, contemporary Mexican American or Chicano art has developed as an art of identity, asserting the uniqueness of Chicanos and their dual Mexican and U.S. American cultural backgrounds. Because it emerged as a social phenomenon, however, many people outside the Chicano community have perceived Chicano art as merely protest art or social commentary, and Mexican American artists have been largely ignored in mainstream museums and absent in art history texts on American art. Yet more than ever before, Chicano art is diverse in medium, style, technique, and content—the cutting edge of a bold attempt to redefine and advance the American experience through new ideas of who we are as Americans and what American art is.
Contemporary Chican@ Art is a general introduction and guide to one of the most exciting and meaningful expressions in contemporary American art. Intended for the casual reader as well as for art history scholars and students, the book provides an overview of work created from the 1960s to the present. George Vargas follows the dramatic evolution of Chicano art within the broader context of American cultural history. He shows that while identity politics was and still is a prevailing force in Chicano expression, Chicano art has undergone a remarkable transformation, shifting from a strict Chicano perspective to a more universal one, while still remaining a people's art. In the concluding chapter, Vargas takes an in-depth look at selected Chicano artists who share their thoughts about the Chicano artistic enterprise and their own work.