Happening | An Asco Retrospective at LACMA


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is presenting Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972-1987, the first retrospective for the Chicano performance art group. The group’s name is derived from the same Spanish word for disgust or revulsion, and is fitting for artists who use the body as a medium of visualizing social turbulence and unease.


The retrospective hints at the group’s first “exhibition” at LACMA, staged in 1972 but without the museum’s permission. Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie Herrón, and Patssi Valdez spray painted their names on the building’s exterior, and thus claimed the museum as their work of art. Titled Spray Paint LACMA (or Project Pie in De/Face), the piece thematized simultaneously the relationship of the museum to the social turmoil in Los Angeles, the under-representation of minorities in art institutions, and the line between profanity and high art. It was also the world’s largest Chicano artwork to date.


Nearly forty years after Spray Paint LACMA, Asco’s work has been relocated to the interior of the museum but is no less provocative. The 150 artworks comprising the exhibition find resonance in our current climates of uncertainty, and demonstrates performance art’s enduring eloquence. Or, as Valdez puts it,

I think it was a combination of performance art and protest. For me, it was very important to try to get noticed because I had things to say. I felt like I had to do it in a big way, so that the viewer would pay attention. The look, the make-up: I needed for you to pay attention, because I had a message.


Asco: Elite of the Obscure, is on view through December 4th.


This Saturday November 5, the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Leonardo DiCaprio and Eva Chow, along with the Gala Host Committee invite you to join them at the inaugural Art + Film Gala Honoring Clint Eastwood and John Baldessari. To purchase a table, tickets, or to make a contribution, please contact Dhyandra Lawson at dlawson@lacma.org. See the scheduled talks in the series.