chapter  9
18 Pages

Barbed Wire Iconography and Aesthetic Activism: The Borderlands, Mexican Immigration, and Chicana/o Art


Chicana/o cultural art production exploded in the 1960s as part of the political upheaval commonly known as the Chicano Movement. This art movement, therefore, has its roots deeply entrenched in revolutionary articulations and as a response to social, economic, educational, and political concerns of the Mexican American population, which viewed itself as marginalized and occupying a second-class citizen status in U.S. society. One area of particular emphasis in Chicana/o contestatory art has been the subject of immigration. In this study I center my attention on Chicana/o art and the use of barbed-wire iconography within its creative space and posit that it is inscribed as a semiotic sign specifi cally designed to encode concepts of dehumanization, oppression, racism, pain, brutality, exclusivity, and suffering as they relate to Mexican transnational migratory movements. I explore the use of barbed wire in the works of such visual artists as Rupert García, Malaquías Montoya, Manuel Unzueta, Consuelo Jiménez Underwood, Adriana Yadira Gallego, and Daniel Márquez. Furthermore, my analysis makes use of the theoretical paradigm I have developed and titled “aesthetic activism” or the use of art, that is, the beautiful, for social transformation-specifi cally in the quest for social justice.