Retrospective of Revolutionary Asco Group at WCMA

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Museum of Art presents "Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987," the first retrospective to present the wide-ranging work of the Chicano performance and conceptual art group Asco.

The exhibit is organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and on view Feb. 4 through July 29.

The core team of artists, Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie F. Herron III, and Patssi Valdez, met in East Los Angeles in the late 1960s and took the name Asco from the Spanish word for disgust or nausea.

Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, Asco developed a sophisticated body of work attentive to the specific neighborhoods of Los Angeles and, in particular, its urban Chicano barrios. Creating art by any means necessary — often using their bodies and guerilla tactics — Asco merged activism and performance and, in doing so, pushed the boundaries of what Chicano art might encompass.

The exhibit includes nearly 150 artworks, featuring video, sculpture, painting, performance ephemera and documentation, collage, correspondence art, photography (including their signature "No Movies," or invented film stills), and a series of works commissioned on occasion of the exhibition.

It was organized by C. Ondine Chavoya, Williams College associate professor of art and Latino studies and Rita Gonzalez, associate curator of contemporary art for the Los Angeles museum.

The exhibition features a large selection of "No Movies" — Asco's signature images created for the camera that imbue performance art with a cinematic feel. As a staged event, the artists would play the parts of cinema stars, and the resulting images were then disseminated as if they were stills from "authentic" Chicano motion pictures.
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