LEARN: FYA Asks the Curators of Pacific Standard Time

Rita Gonzalez Discusses the Exhibition Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Throughout Pacific Standard Time, ForYourArt is asking curators of the more than 60 exhibitions for insight into their shows. Leading off with why their lead image is important, they will give us topics to discuss as you go through the exhibition and where you can learn more afterward. Visit Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through December 4th.

How does the image Instant Mural represent your exhibition?

For me, this image condenses many aspects of Asco’s provocative oeuvre. Instant Mural gives the viewer a sense of the group’s guerrilla tactics, for example, how concepts were translated quickly into actions often with the cityscape as backdrop (and source of inspiration). Instant Mural is also indicative of the group’s commitment to experimentation often with an element of play and risk. Finally, I think this action and its resultant image also gives the viewer a strong sense of how Asco blurred the lines of performance, photography, muralism; and by extension, how the group refused to be pinned down to any one static notion of art making.

What do you hope visitors will think about/consider while they are at the exhibition? What are some discussion topics?

This exhibition provides an opportunity to rethink the conventional categories and assumed connections associated with Los Angeles art, 1970s body art, conceptual art, political art, minority art, and Chicano art. I think visitors to the exhibition (and related ones in Pacific Standard Time) will get a much stronger sense of the landscape that gave rise to so much experimentation. Members of Asco were involved with the formation of LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) and showed in the same contexts as performance and conceptual artists such as Chris Burden, Barbara T. Smith, Mike Kelley, Ulysses Jenkins, Kim Jones, Nancy Buchanan, among others. “Elite of the obscure” could be the subtitle for all L.A.-based conceptual and performance artists of the 1970s and 80s, as the creation and promotion of the L.A. scene was the direct outcome of these proactive artists creating alternative spaces, art journals, and other sites of exchange and dialogue.

Where would you direct someone who wanted to learn more about this topic?

Asco’s output will be framed across a number of Pacific Standard Time exhibitions giving us the unique opportunity consider their work in a variety of contexts. Over the course of the year, the group will be featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)’s Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974–1981, Orange County Museum of Art’s State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970, Fowler Museum’s Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement, and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibition (LACE)’s Los Angeles Goes Live: Exploring a Social History of Performance Art in Southern California 1970–1983. Of course, I also have to plug the exhibition catalogue for Asco: Elite of the Obscure (edited with my co-curator C. Ondine Chavoya). We have an incredible array of essays by David James, Amelia Jones, Chon Noriega, Tere Romo, Maris Bustamante, among others, as well as hundreds of images that give a deeper understanding of this prolific group’s artistic output.

by Sarah Williams

Also see FYA Asks Kathy Rae Huffman and Nancy Buchanan of Long Beach Museum of Art.

1. Asco, Instant Mural, 1974
2. Ricardo Valverde, Asco Days of the Dead Performance, Termites y Guerrero, 1975
3. Harry Gamboa Jr, X’s Party (fotonovela), 1983
4. Asco, Scissors (Patssi Valdez cover image for Regeneracion), 1974