"Curves and Zigzags" by Claudia Comte | Still from Desert X AB s9

Harry Gamboa Jr.'s Photographic Excavation of Chicano Identity

When photographer Harry Gamboa Jr. began his portrait series, “Chicano Male Unbonded” in 1991, the word “Chicano” implied guns, drugs and all manner of dangerous things. “I started the car, turned on the radio and the first thing that went on was an announcement from the news that says to be on the lookout for a Chicano male; he’s dangerous,” recalls Gamboa Jr. in a video with KCET, which was also on view at the Autry Museum of the American West through August 2018, alongside an exhibition of his long-running project.

That initial statement inspired Gamboa Jr. to seek out Chicano males that went against this prevailing stereotype, men that were lauded in their fields. “What the series achieves is not to give you the correct definition of Chicano male, but to give you nearly one hundred answers to that,” says UCLA professor and curator Chon A. Noriega in the same short film.

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