ChismeArte Magazine was a Los Angeles-based work that ran in the 1970s and early 1980s. Each issue of ChismeArte was an artistic, passionate expression of the struggle and search for Chicano identity, as well as a discussion board for debating hot topics among the culture.
The editorial page of a particular issue described the publication as “an open forum for the development of ideas/concepts that will contribute to the arts and social struggle.”
Works by writers Luis Rodríguez, Harry Gamboa and Helen Viramontes, as well as artists Gronk, Carlos Almaraz, John Valadez and Barbara Carrasco, are featured in “ChismeArte, ¡Y Que!: Expanding L.A.’s Chicano Aesthetic,” an exhibit now showing in the Kennedy Library Gallery at the Commons.
“There wasn’t a voice for the urban Chicano population in Los Angeles at the time,” said library curator Catherine Trujillo, who is also involved in the exhibit. “The magazine was sort of a playground for their art and writing.”
Everything including the front and back covers – even the table of contents – were decorated with innovative pieces and lively titles including “No Way Jose” and “Que Viva.” The raw quality of many of the pieces helped demonstrate the
experiences of the Chicano authors and artists.
Some pieces hang from the ceiling, while others are affixed to metal structures. Covers, articles and even a 58-page photocopy of an
issue are included for showing. While there are some photos, most of the artwork featured in the exhibit are drawings, paintings and other handmade pieces.
A special “Woman’s Issue” included on its cover a simplistic drawing of a woman applying makeup and wearing a pendant with the figure of Mary emblazoned on it.
Also, more than 30 terms and definitions of “Chicano” are included on a banner that spans the height of the wall.
Marcia Gonzalez’ “Gonzales & son” included a police photo of a man shot to death, along with text below, which was inverted and mirrored onto the opposing page; conflicting accounts by the plaintiff and defendant are included.
Students from the ethnic studies, art and design, and graphic communication departments collaborated on the exhibit, writing analyses of the various pieces, designing the exhibit’s layout and ambiance, and creating promotional materials.
Ethnic Studies Department Chair Victor Valle, also a former editor of the magazine, co-organized the exhibit.
“I am glad to be part of a larger movement of scholars who are helping reconstruct the Chicano, Chicana, and, more broadly speaking, Latino literary heritage in the U.S.,” he said.
Several projects by scholarly organizations across the country are working to rescue and preserve remaining Chicano art, literature and history, including the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project.
Archival copies of select ChismeArte issues are available in Special Collections, in room 409 of the library.
The exhibit, which will run until June 16, opened during Open House weekend to a lot of positive feedback from visitors, including prospective ethnic studies majors.
“I hope that students who see and read the exhibit will become curious enough to interpret and cite these visual and written texts as primary sources in future senior projects,” Valle said.