Size: 5 Sound cassettes, Sound recording (270 min.), analog; 90 Pages, Transcript
Summary: An interview of Harry Gamboa, Jr. conducted 1999 Apr. 1-16, at various cafes in Los Angeles, Calif., by Jeffrey Rangel, for the Archives of American Art. The artist, Gronk, joined the interview for the second session.
Photographer, painter, video artist, and writer, Harry Gamboa, Jr. (b. 1951), has been involved in creating visual and performance works that interpret the contemporary urban Chicano culture. A native of Los Angeles, Gamboa began the interview by reflecting on his book Urban Exile (University of Minnesota Press, 1998), which he considers only a fragment of his creative work, feeling photography his primary medium. He expressed a need to maintain his identity as a Chicano artist while at the same time trying to balance financial survival, family maintenance, and creative spontaneity. He described growing up in East Los Angeles, a period that tested his personality and developed his quick wit and humor as a means of survival and his sense of being the "participant viewer." He remembers his educational experiences as "highly damaging," due to the physical violence from a few teachers and the stereotyping of Chicanos. His views about the Vietnam War and his disillusionment of the political process which led to a discussion about the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American culture's influence on his work. He emphasized the lack of an awareness by the art community of black and Chicano artists that was underscored in the Armand Hammer Museum's LA and Noir [Sunshine and Noir: Los Angeles Art, 1960-1990, at the UCLA/Armand Hammer Art Center] exhibition, 1998.
The second session began and ended with Gamboa reflecting on his relationship with his wife and fellow artist, Barbara Carrasco. In the interim, he and Gronk, who joined the interview, discussed the dynamics that brought the artists together in Asco; the differences and competitiveness within the Chicano Arts Movement; and the vulnerabilities of an artist's surviving while trying to maintain an artistic vision. Despite these challenges and an opressive dominant culture that has not embrased Chicano art, Carrasco have continued as artists because they feel a need to create and to present their work as a means of expanding a perception of reality.