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Muralism has been distorted by the so-called ‘Taco Art’, says artist Marcos Raya

Walking through the Pilsen neighborhood there is much that the artist Marcos Raya does not like in terms of public art also known as muralism, a trend that has been in existence for more than 50 years in Pilsen and in several other Hispanic communities.

Raya, a native of Irapuato, Guanajuato, and the son of a bohemian father and troubadour who played with the Los Tecolines trio, invented a phrase to categorize what he does not like about the new muralism of these times. He calls it “taco art”, art cheap as a taco and without any message.

This Mexican muralist came to the city in 1964 at the age of 16 and settled in the neighborhood of Little Italy, north of Pilsen. Now 72, Raya recalls that after studying at an art school in Lennox, Massachusetts, he returned to Chicago and volunteered at Casa Aztlán where he taught art and then ventured out onto the streets to paint murals. One of the most recognized was his ‘Tribute to Diego Rivera’, which was for years next to a hardware store in Pilsen.

But now Raya is not satisfied with what his eyes see. Think that perhaps today’s youth are not very well focused on the problems that people have.

“There is a nationalist infantilism” that Raya affirms does not contribute to expanding art in the community and is represented by easy and stereotyped images that have already been copied for years.

Raya thinks that young painters have not thoroughly studied the art of Mexican muralists, such as Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and others.

“Instead of taking art seriously, they spend their time copying, designing the same images, this is a very simple or chicharronero way of making art,” said the artist.

Even Raya sometimes thinks that all young people of Mexican origin have lost their identity. It is a fear that afflicts you.

“The advice I can give you, what I can tell you, is that painting murals is part of a real movement, a social movement,” says Raya. “Muralism is to educate.”

Another of Raya’s most recognized murals is the one on the corner of 18th Street and Western Avenue entitled “No more dictatorships.” There a crowd tombs the statue of Anastasio Somoza.

Among other complaints from this veteran artist, who began his career as a surrealist painter, are: “I don’t understand graffiti, it doesn’t tell you anything, it may even be reactionary so that no message is painted” or “painting Frida Kahlo It has already reached the level of idiocy… They have already distorted it a lot; as it has also been commercialized and distorted the idea of ​​the Day of the Dead ”.

“Muralism is to capture more radical perspectives,” concludes Raya, whose art will be part of a national exhibition organized by the Guggenheim Museum in New York once this pandemic is over.