Archival Body/Archival Space: Queer Remains of the Chicano Art Movement, Los Angeles, 1969-2009
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This dissertation proposes an interdisciplinary queer archive methodology I term "archival body/archival space," which recovers, interprets, and assesses the alternative archives and preservation practices of homosexual men in the Chicano Art Movement, the cultural arm of the Mexican American civil rights struggle in the U.S. Without access to systemic modes of preservation, these men generated other archival practices to resist their erasure, omission, and obscurity. The study conducts a series of archive excavations mining "archival bodies" of homosexual artists from buried and unseen "archival spaces," such as: domestic interiors, home furnishings, barrio neighborhoods, and museum installations. This allows us to reconstruct the artist archive and, thus, challenge how we see, know, and comprehend "Chicano art" as an aesthetic and cultural category. As such, I evidence the critical role of sexual difference within this visual vocabulary and illuminate networks of homosexual Chicano artists taking place in gay bars, alternative art spaces, salons, and barrios throughout East Los Angeles.
My queer archive study model consists of five interpretative strategies: sexual agency of Chicano art, queer archival afterlife, containers of desire, archival chiaroscuro, and archive elicitation. I posit that by speaking through these artifact formations, the "archival body" performs the allegorical bones and flesh of the artist, an artifactual surrogacy articulated through things. My methodological innovation has direct bearing on how sexual difference shapes the material record and the places from which these "queer remains" are kept, sheltered, and displayed. These heritage purveyors questioned what constitutes an archive and a record, challenging the biased assumption that sexuality was insignificant to the Chicano Art Movement and leaving no material trace.
The structure of my dissertation presents five archive recovery projects, including: Robert "Cyclona" Legorreta, Joey Terrill, Mundo Meza, Teddy Sandoval, and VIVA: Lesbian and Gay Latino Artists of Los Angeles. The restoration of these artists also reveals the profound symbiosis between this circle of artists, Chicano avant-gardism, and the burgeoning gay and lesbian liberation movement in Los Angeles. My findings rupture the persistent heterosexual vision of this period and reveals a parallel visual lineage, one which dared to picture sexual difference in the epicenter of Chicano art production.