Mesoamerica | Frida, Diego & The Muralists
Chicana/o Art | Mictlan | Nepantla Aesthetics
Looking South/ Looking North:
Mirando al Sur/ Mirando al Norte

  Caution Country
Ricardo Duffy
  Print, pastel, pencil

by Sybil Venegas

In his 1983 print, Journey to Aztlan, artist Gilbert Lujan (Magu) visually constructs a North/South paradigm that has largely defined the Mexican/Chicano experience in the United States. At the same time, he challenges the more conventional East/West paradigm, the basic narrative of westward movement, manifest destiny, and the core of North American national memory. By turning the United States on its head, Magu subverts the traditional story of invasion, annexation and domination upon which the foundation of United States history rests and locates Chicano/as within a Greater Mexico, or a borderland where culture(s) can be, and have been, resurrected, reclaimed, accommodated, mixed, merged, re-membered and/or redefined.

For the most part, Chicano/a art is, and has been grounded, in a North/South paradigm, or a cultural landscape, which is very much a lived experience in North America, or the United States, but one that is often informed by the South, or Mexico. This has been such a dominant theme in Chicano/a visual art that the academy, or the Western art canon, has often misconstrued or labeled artwork by Chicano/a artists as a folk or popular art inspired genre. Because the reclamation and incorporation of ancient Mexican iconography and cosmology, traditional ceremonies, and popular Mexican art forms have not been integral to the art/culture making systems of North American museums and learning institutions, art critics and historians have often discounted and rendered illegitimate images grounded in a Mexican aesthetic.