ChismeArte ¡ Y Que !
In 1976, Chisme Arte Magazine debuted in Los Angeles, produced collaboratively by a small group of emerging Chicano artists and writers. Although initially funded by the California Arts Council to serve as a newsletter for Chicano artists throughout California, Chisme Arte, (translated as “art gossip”) rapidly evolved into the creative loci for urban Chicano artists and writers. Like the avant-garde publications created by artists of previous generations, Chisme Arte also reflected how one group perceived their audience and defined their milieu.
The artists, writers and designers who collaborated on this magazine used Chisme Arte as a vehicle to create new strategies for the expression of a Chicano political ideas, aesthetic discourse, and identities. For the creators of Chisme Arte, the audience was just as important as their magazine’s content. In fact, it was the content. Over the course of Chisme Arte’s eight-year run, the magazine’s pages provided both readers and the collaborators with a space in which to test new ideas. Its art and texts also served as a place to test new strategies of self-representation, rather than merely re-affirm didactic examples of what it meant to be Chicano. Instead, each edition reflected the shifting political, social and aesthetic concerns held within the larger Chicano movement.
This exhibition provides a survey of themes found in the magazine’s pages, represented through a selection of magazine covers, inside art, and literature, over the course of Chisme Arte’s 11-edition life span, which ended in 1984. As the greater Los Angeles art and literary community would soon discover, the magazine’s cadre of Chicano artists and writers would later emerge as major figures by the late 1980s and 1990s. As a whole, its covers, inside art, and texts provide an entry point into a historical movement embodied by the confluence of these diverging styles, voices and politics.
Style and Substance
Looking back at this magazine nearly twenty years after its inception, it is clear that the themes addressed in the pages of this magazine such as gender identity, sexuality, social history, and community activism are still alive in well in the Chicano community today. However, it is the visual and literary languages employed on and in these magazine that allow us, as contemporary viewers and readers, an opportunity to understand the sites of influence and historical significance that the Chicano movement embodied.
The art on the covers of Chisme Arte borrowed visual references from Chicano street art, religious iconography, mid-century Cuban Socialist graphic design, the Latin American literary “boom” and revolutionary testimonio, as well as the emerging experimental aesthetic of Chicano camp. This magazine was also product of the post-modern pastiche or sampling, used by these artists and writers as both an aesthetic and an expressive tool. It is clear that in style and substance this magazine was ahead of its time.