Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, 2013
Officers, clouds of gas, buildings, and lowriders all share the bold brushwork and fiery color of graffiti, but this exuberance masks the emotional toll that painting the scene exacted. Romero acknowledges that it takes years to think through and to paint these episodes in the life of his community. He did not grow up thinking of himself as a Chicano, but embraced that identity after years of working with three other Latino artists in an informal group known as Los Four. The year he painted Death of Rubén Salazar, Romero said that “there’s all this talk about America not having a culture other than McDonald’s…I do have a culture. It’s Aztlan.” He was referring to the mythical birthplace of the Aztec people.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Rubén Salazar was a writer for the Los Angeles Times and was active in the civil rights battles of the 1960s. When Chicanos rallied against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970, police fired tear-gas canisters into the Silver Dollar Bar, where Salazar was struck and killed. To create Death of Rubén Salazar, Frank Romero combined the large scale of Mexican Revolution murals with the brilliant colors of the East LA barrio. To the right, a movie marquee announces that “La Muerte de Rubén Salazar” is now playing. At the left of the Silver Dollar, the Casa de Cambio suggests not only the exchange of paychecks and cash, but the idea of change in the community. Officers, clouds of gas, buildings, and lowriders all share the bold brushwork and fiery color of graffiti, but this exuberance masks the emotional toll that painting the scene exacted. The year he painted Death of Rubén Salazar, Romero said that “There’s all this talk about America not having a culture other than McDonald’s … I do have a culture. It’s Aztlan.” He was referring to the mythical birthplace of the Aztec people.
“In my studio I have to deal with my own devils, and I wrestle with my own concerns and dreams and fears.” Frank Romero, Oral History interview, 1997, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Romero rinde homenaje à la memoria de Rubén Salazar, un periodista del Los Angeles Times y uno de los principales cronistas del movimiento chicano de derechos civiles. Después de cubrir los sucesos de la Moratoria Chicana de 1970, una manifestación contra la Guerra de Vietnam, Salazar fue al Silver Dollar Café, en East Los Angeles. Información sobre un altercado armado atrajo la presencia de la policía. Un proyectil de gas lacrimógeno disparado hacia el interior del bar mató a Salazar instantáneamente. Romero combinó las referencias a este trágico día con u tema de una película anunciada en la marquesina de un teatro. El gran formato y el sujeto heroico de la obra la vinculan con la gran tradición de la pintura de historia, un género artístico que conmemora los sucesos históricos.
Death of Rubén Salazar
- 72 1⁄4 x 120 3⁄8 in. (183.5 x 305.8 cm.)
© 1986, Frank Romero
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
- Mediums Description
- oil on canvas
- Architecture – vehicle – automobile
- State of being – death – murder
- Architecture Exterior – commercial – tavern
- Occupation – service – policeman
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI