Artwork by Chicano Movement “Artivist” Mario Torero

The following is a guest post by Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, Prints & Photographs Division. It originally appeared on Picture This, the division’s blog.

When Juan Felipe Herrera was exploring Library of Congress collections to share through his Poet Laureate project El Jardín (The Garden): La Casa de Colores, he was interested to learn what we have by Chicano Movement artists. We were immediately able to offer a rich array of visual artworks by such luminary participants as Barbara Carrasco, Sam Coronado, Rupert García, Juan Fuentes, Carmen Lomas Garza, Ester Hernández, Yolanda M. López, Emmanuel Montoya, Herbert Sigüenza, Xavier Viramontes, and many others.

We recently had the chance to add some extraordinary artworks by Victor Ochoa and Mario Torero – defining Chicano Movement artists in San Diego, California’s Logan Heights creative community where Mr. Herrera grew up. In his words: “You have included two major artists-muralists activists of the Chicano Movimiento breaking out from Southern Cali!” Here we feature the work of Peruvian-born “artivist” Mario Torero whose work, as the term suggests, combines art with activism. I look forward to highlighting Victor Ochoa’s work in a future post.

The T-shaped composition of Torero’s 1975 Colossus concept drawing hints at the image’s ultimate destination as a now-iconic mural painting on a concrete pillar support for Coronado Bridge. The east end of the Bridge rises above San Diego’s legendary Chicano Park, an important civil rights landmark which is designated a U.S. Department of the Interior National Historic Landmark and part of the National Park Service National Register of Historic Places.

Colossus. Drawing by Mario Torero, 1975. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52132.

Colossus. Drawing by Mario Torero, 1975. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52132. By permission of the artist.

Torero’s Atlas-like figure, whose face closely resembles his own, raises his hands in a weight-carrying gesture. He is partly haloed by a rainbow and surrounded by radiating, dark and light beams. His bandana bears the symbol of the artist collective El Congreso de Artistas Chicanos en Aztlán (CACA) of which Torero was a leading member.

Working with Mano Lima, Laurie Manzano, and Tomas “Coyote” Castañeda to create the final Colussus mural–Torero envisioned the figure: “…as a community hero who empowers, strengthens and sacrifices. I try always to contemporize our history and reach out to other global cultures to emphasize ours and give it the element of universality and importance. The original design for this Chicano Park pillar was a personal model from which I drew up a modified version, more as a popular cartoon than the classical approach that it started as.” In translation from concept to painting, the mural figure took on a bolder mythic, supernatural quality—appearing to glow gold against a dark background.

Artist Mario Torero with his Colossus mural, Chicano Park, San Diego, California. Photo by Marianne Peterson, 2017. By permission of the artist.

Artist Mario Torero with his Colossus mural, Chicano Park, San Diego, California. Photo by Marianne Peterson, 2017. By permission of the artist.

The Library’s collection of some twenty artworks by Mario Torero includes a number of drawings and prints related to mural and poster projects including his Ojos de Frida (1985), You Are Not a Minority (1977), and Rita Cansino (1983).

Ojos de Frida Kahlo. Drawing by Mario Torero, 1985. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52133

Ojos de Frida Kahlo. Drawing by Mario Torero, 1985. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52133 By permission of the artist.

You are not a minority!! Print by Mario Torero, 1987. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52134

You are not a minority!! Print by Mario Torero, 1987. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52134 By permission of the artist

Rita Cansino. Print by Mario Torero, 1983. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52135

Rita Cansino. Print by Mario Torero, 1983. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52135 By permission of the artist.

Torero’s drawings offer unique insight into the artist’s creative process and reflect the crucial role of artists in shaping the history and evolution of the Chicano Movement.

Learn More

  • View Juan Felipe Herrera’s discussion of Mission Gráfica/La Raza, San Quentin Arts, and Elizabeth Catlett collections, El Jardín (The Garden): La Casa de Colores
  • Explore more highlights by Hispanic and Chicano Movement creators from the Prints & Photographs Division graphics collections:
    • José Guadalupe Posada prints: More than 140 digitized examples from several hundred prints and printing plates by seminal Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, published by Antonio Vanegas Arroyo.
    • Taller de Gráfica Popular: Descriptions of selected items from nearly 350 prints, posters, and illustrated books from TGP studio.
    • Mission Gráfica/La Raza Collection: Collection description and digitized examples from over 1,000 prints and posters representing the work of three graphics arts centers in San Francisco, CA: Mission Gráfica, La Raza Graphics, and Alliance Graphics.
  • Visit the Library of Congress Hispanic DivisionWith an entire division devoted to Latin American, Iberian and US Hispanic/Latino studies, the Library’s collections and research programs reflect the creative and intellectual achievement of creators from around the world, with a growing emphasis on related activities in the U.S.
  • Delve into National Hispanic Heritage Month offerings from multiple institutions, including the Library of Congress.

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