New Acquisition

Romero, Frank (b.1941, U.S.)
Arrest of the Paleteros, 2010
32 color serigraph, 77 x 117 cm.
Art Intern Purchase, Friends of Houghton-Paula Kalenik ’71
ARTH 204 Art Collection Internship: Acquisition
The students in this course have selected a work to add to the Hobart and William Smith Art Collection. Thank you to Dylan Bennett ’19, Sarah MacKechnie ’19, Tiffani Pan ’19, and Xin Xu ’18.

The premise was “In the time since the beginning of the 2016 American presidential election, Donald Trump has continued to shift America’s focus towards his exclusionary, violent, and nationalistic view for a “Greater America.” He has targeted many marginalized groups in America from Muslim-Americans to the LGBTQ+ community, but one of his earliest and most frequent victims is Latinx-Americans whom he chooses to label as “rapists, murderers, criminals,” and distinctly “un-American.” With the recent act to end the DACA agreement, Donald Trump has shown that his view for America excludes the rich history and foundational influence of Latinx-Americans and those seeking to become Latinx-Americans. We choose to focus on acquiring art of Latinx-American perspectives to emphasize the allyship of Americans of all decent and of Latinx immigrants who seek to become American citizens. Latinx-American perspectives cannot and will not be silenced by a demagogic president or those who support his violent policies or worldview. We choose to stand with Latinx-Americans here at HWS, around the United States, and around the world by making their perspectives and stories a fundamental part of the Davis Gallery Collection.”

Frank Romero grew up in the Hispanic, Asian, and Jewish communities of East Los Angeles. He began painting when he was five years old and as a teenager attended LA’s Otis Art Institute, one of the best art schools in the nation. Romero did not think of himself as a Chicano until he began to work with three other artists in an informal group known as Los Four. Los Four and other Hispanic artists throughout the West used wall murals, graffiti, and street theater to protest America’s involvement in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The police response to antiwar demonstrations in Los Angeles was part of a larger pattern of violence against the minority communities that Romero experienced throughout his life. It takes years for the artist to think through and to paint these episodes in the life of his community, because, he says, “That stuff is hard for me to do, it hurts, it’s frightening” (Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2002 [online]). Romero’s brightly colored paintings celebrate the Los Angeles culture of lowriders and “rascuache,” the art of making something beautiful out of the ordinary.

Romero’s print Arrest of the Paleteros is a serigraph reproduction of his 1996 painting depicting the ice-cream men, being arrested in Echo Park for not having vendor permits. The print was complete at Modern Multiples in Los Angeles under the guidance of Richard Duardo. In Frank Romero’s 1996 painting The Arrest of the Paleteros, towering palm trees reach into an evening sky streaked with pink and reflect off the placid surface of Echo Park Lake, a sight that cuts to the core of Los Angeles’ awe-inspiring beauty. But in the foreground, there’s chaos. Framed in a cop car’s headlights, four ice cream vendors reach into the air — echoing the palm trees in the background — as police officers train their weapons on them and two small children holding paletas in their tiny fists. Off to the left, a balloon vendor is pursued on foot by a cop with his billy club drawn. The balloon man is wearing an almost cartoonish outfit and his mouth is agape, which seems to further emphasize the absurdity of LAPD’s excessively zealous crackdown on unlicensed vendors in the early ’90s.

A Conversation with Frank Romero. / interview By: Chattopadhyay, Collette. Artweek, September 3 1992, Vol. 23, p23-25, 3p

Art with a Chicano accent. / Historical and contemporary Chicano Art in Los Angeles By: Durland, Steven; Burnham, Linda Frye; MacAdams, Lewis. High Performance, 1986, Vol. 9 Issue 3, p40-57, 16p

East Side Stories: Freeways and Their Portraits in Chicano Los Angeles. By: Avila, Eric. Landscape Journal, 2007, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p83-97, 15p; DOI: 10.3368/lj.26.1.83

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