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Urban Exile

Collected Writings of Harry Gamboa Jr.

1998
Author:

Harry Gamboa Jr.
Chon A. Noriega, editor

Urban Exile

An essential overview of the work of a pioneering figure of multimedia and conceptual art.

Harry Gamboa Jr. has pioneered multimedia formats for nearly three decades, setting a precedent for the work of artists such as Coco Fusco, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Daniel J. Martinez. Urban Exile gathers Gamboa’s diverse creations in a visually compelling collection that reveals a rich vein of Chicano avant-garde production reaching back to the early 1970s.

No story of Chicano art and politics is complete without Harry Gamboa and Asco. Each has played a central role in refiguring U.S. conceptual and performance art since the early 1970s. And both are wickedly funny and savvy—always filled with surprises, always in-your-face, never predictable. Urban Exile makes available for the first time the full range of Gamboa’s brilliant and biting oeuvre.

Bryan Wolf, Professor of American Studies, Yale University

The art of Harry Gamboa Jr. encompasses photography, video, performance, installation, essays, fiction, poetry, and lesser-known forms of his own creation.

Working in the tradition of Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, Gamboa has pioneered multimedia formats for nearly three decades, setting a precedent for the work of artists such as Coco Fusco, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Daniel J. Martinez. Urban Exile gathers Gamboa’s diverse creations in a visually compelling collection that reveals a rich vein of Chicano avant-garde production reaching back to the early 1970s.

Gamboa was a founding member of Asco (1972-1987), the East L.A. multimedia art group that critically satirized high art and cinema while parodying the utopian nationalism of the Chicano Arts Movement. Urban Exile comprises works Gamboa created with Asco as well as solo efforts-Mexican fotonovelas rewritten as performance pieces, mail art, No Movies (images presented as stills from nonexistent movies). Firmly grounded in the megalopolis of Los Angeles, these texts present a unique perspective on the bizarre racialized and class-stratified fabric of that city—the “urban desert in ruins.”

Gamboa’s work is crucial to an understanding not only of Chicano art but also of the post-1968 avant-garde in the United States; he consistently debunks traditional categories, creates innovative alternatives, and reveals a history rendered invisible by the dominant art institutions and media industries. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes dreamlike, always unexpected, these texts present a compelling critique of urban life at the end of the millennium and are essential reading for all “orphans of modernism.”

Urban Exile

Harry Gamboa Jr. lives in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Whitney Biennial, and the Robert Flaherty Seminar.

Chon A. Noriega is an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the editor of Chicanos and Film (1992) and The Ethnic Eye (1996), both published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Urban Exile

By assembling the writings of Gamboa from the last 25 years, Urban Exile provides access to the diverse projects of the Asco collective and to Gamboa’s later solo and group projects. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in Asco’s work, thanks in part to the efforts of scholars like Noriega. Urban Exile performs a service in bringing together essays, photographs, experimental writing, performance texts, fiction and poems, some never before published, some previously only available in hard-to-find magazines.

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This book is vital for those invested in mapping the intersections between performance culture and political activism. In a wide array of expressive forms which include essays, mail art, photography, fiction, performance, poetry, and video, Gamboa critiques the forces of domination which subjugate the brown bodies that populate the urban Los Angeles landscape. It is important that we regard Urban Exile as a valuable guidebook for understanding, and creating, activist performance and performative activism.

Theatre Journal

No story of Chicano art and politics is complete without Harry Gamboa and Asco. Each has played a central role in refiguring U.S. conceptual and performance art since the early 1970s. And both are wickedly funny and savvy—always filled with surprises, always in-your-face, never predictable. Urban Exile makes available for the first time the full range of Gamboa’s brilliant and biting oeuvre.

Bryan Wolf, Professor of American Studies, Yale University

Harry Gamboa’s art captivates, challenges, and enlightens.

Dolores Huerta, Secretary Treasurer, United Farmworkers of America

Harry Gamboa Jr. is, as Chon Noriega forcefully argues, a unique figure within both the Chicano community and the alternative arts. The presentation of this rich archive of material challenges the too-often limited academic and museum-supported historical representations of conceptual, film, and performance art. Gamboa's Asco projects and No Movies confront and contest the art world's predetermined parameters of art history and practice. Urban Exile is an important resource: I will return to it often.

John G. Hanhardt, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The history of American Conceptual art cannot be properly written without the inclusion of the work of Harry Gamboa Jr. and the Los Angeles-based performance group Asco, of which he was a member. Urban Exile provides the first substantial documentation of Gamboa’s’ writing and begins to fill the historical lacunae that currently exist in scholarship on the art of the twentieth century in the United States. A perceptive introduction by UCLA Professor Chon Noriega situates the work of Gamboa in a uniquely Chicano avant-garde, and expands conceptions of this experimental art practice beyond a European intellectual inheritance and, refreshingly, beyond narrow or simple identity politics.

Art Journal

In Urban Exile: Collected Writings of Harry Gamboa Jr., editor Chon A. Noriega collects ephemera gathered from Gamboa’s three-decade-long dadaistic career. The book includes interviews with artists, poetry, fiction, collaged images, documentation of public and staged performances, photographic portraits of Chicano men, and political writings, including an essay on public schools reflecting his son’s first year in kindergarten. Taken together they effectively portray Gamboa’s extreme articulation-as sharp as the switchblade in a cholo’s pocket—of the “phantom culture” of Chicanos in East Los Angeles. Like a loud banging on trash cans, screaming questions into the urban landscape, Gamboa asks ‘Why live in these conditions? Why produce? Why live?’ In the context of urban hysteria, he is an observer of the extended-play apocalypse who refuses to become numb. Urban Exile should be viewed as a primer for avant-garde practice in the shadows of the decay and celebration that are simultaneously pushing urban America into the new millennium.

LA Weekly

This book is vital for those invested in mapping the intersections between performance culture and political activism. In a wide variety of expressive forms, Gamboa critiques the forces of domination which subjugate the brown bodies that populate the urban Los Angeles landscape.

Theatre Journal

Urban Exile

Contents

Author’s Acknowledgments
Editor’s Acknowledgments

No Introduction

Chon A.Noriega
Essays and Interviews
Three Interviews (Written in Collaboration with Gronk and Willie Herrón)
Interview:Gronk and Gamboa (1976)
Gronk and Herrón:Muralists (1976)
Gronk:No Movie Maker (1980)
Urban Exile (1984)
Reflections on One School in East L.A.(1987)
Serpents in the City ofAngels:After Twenty Years of Political Activism,Has L.A.Chicano Art Been Defanged? (1989)
In the City ofAngels,Chameleons,and Phantoms:Asco,a Case Study ofChicano Art in Urban Tones (or,Asco Was a Four-Member Word) (1991)
Past Imperfecto (1994)
Light at the End ofTunnel Vision (1994)
Refractions ofHome (1994)
No Movies
A La Mode (1997)
No Phantoms (1980)
Young Boy in the 50s (1979)
The Gores (1974)
Waiting for Tickets (1978)
Stapled (1975)
Scissors (1976)
Autologüe Series Fade In/Fade Out (1976)
Autologüe 2(1976)
Autologüe 25, 75,and 100(1976)
Young Boy in the 50s Series Angel’s Flight (1976)
Bomba (1976)
Artopsy (1977)
Pistolwhippersnapper (1976)
No Slapstick (1977)
Performance Cafe O’Lay (1975)
Pseudoturquoisers (1978)
Pinguino (1980) Written in Collaboration with Gronk and Willie Herrón Shadow Solo:Detour via Obsession (1982)
Void and Vain (1983)
Orphans of Modernism: A Radio Play (1984)
Jetter’s Jinx:A Conceptual Drama (1985)
Antizona:A Conceptual Performance (1987)
Ismania:A Conceptual Performance (1987)
Bravo Heights:A Comedy for Television (unfinished) (1987)
No Crossing (1988)
There Was Eternal Disorder in the Silence Which Followed the Expulsion ofthe Species (1989)
Club Limbo (1989)
Ignore the Dents (1990)
Double Negativity:A Play in Desperate Acts (1990)
Vex Requiem:A Play with Music in Two Acts (1990)
Fiction Cruel Profit (1974)
Día de los muertos (1977)
Phobia Friend (1977)
Vacant Tour (1977)
A Rival Departure (1982)
No Gray Matter (1982)
INS and Outs (1983)
Alibi No (1984)
OffLines (1988)
No Beans in My Tortilla (1991)
Writer’s Blockade (1991)
Head’s Turn (1991)
Kiko’s Kut (1992)
Hate Male (1991)
Whichever Way the Lead Blows (1992)
No Alibi (1992)
Rush Hour (1992)
Low and Slow (1992)
Chavalo Was Lost at “Sí”(1992)
Where They Found Javier (1992)
Oscar’s Middle Finger (unfinished)(1992)
In the Realm of the Senseless (1994)
The Chosen Fugue (1996)
Poetry I Don’t Buy My Tacos from Trucks Parked Too Close to Sex Change Clinics (1988)
Hiss-Panic and Other Poems (1988–93)
Ruby without Redress
Celebrity without a Cause
No Atonement
Azure Seizure (in Idahopeless)
Authority Figureless
Roll of the Dyed Ice
Liar’s Nix
Deleted to Meet You
Gila’s Alibi
Furious Descent of Crows
Urban Decay Buffet
Relativity
No Jalapeño Hot Enough
Phantoms Speak My Languish
Opposing Fast Lanes
Nothing’s Wrong
Two Tongues
Man under the Influenza
The Little Prints
Rebuilding
Publication Information