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On Exhibit: Icons of the Invisible


By Scott Fields

Published Oct 1, 2011 12:00 AM

Since the late 1960s, Oscar Castillo has documented the Chicano community in Los Angeles, from major political events to cultural practices to the work of muralists and painters. Now the Fowler Museum, in collaboration with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC), presents Icons of the Invisible: Oscar Castillo, the first major museum showing of the highly regarded photographer's work.


Famed photographer Oscar Castillo brings the Chicano experience in L.A. to vivid life. (Top) Roosevelt High School walkouts in 1970; (above) La Mexicana market, also from the '70s.

Part of the extensive, citywide Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980, the Castillo presentation is complemented by a second CSRC show at the Fowler, Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement, examining the diverse social networks among Chicano artist groups and art spaces in Los Angeles during the 1970s.

The Sept. 25 opening of both exhibits — which CSRC Director Chon Noriega says "are bringing the untold history of Chicano L.A. to the surface" — will feature a 2 p.m. conversation with Castillo and well-known L.A. artist Harry Gamboa Jr. to explore the major themes and approaches that have guided Castillo's work.

The exhibit's 36 photographs, ranging from 1969 through 1980, were selected from an online digital archive of more than 3,000 images by Castillo at the CSRC Library, as well as from a forthcoming book about him. Through photojournalism, portraiture and art photography genres, the images explore everyday barrio life as well as the cultural heritage and social change within the Chicano population.

"The story of Chicano L.A. has largely been told from the perspective of the mainstream press, where there has been an emphasis on the negative," explains Noriega. "Castillo extensively documented the full range of cultural and political life … It's the kind of documentation that hasn't been seen — an inside view of the community — and Oscar has a very distinctive eye. He creates powerful images unlike anything you've seen before."

Icons of the Invisible. Sept. 25–Feb. 26, 2012. Fowler Museum. For more information, visit or call (310) 825-4361.