Asco was formed in the early 1970s by four Chicano artists—Harry Gamboa Jr, Gronk, Willie F. Herrón III and Patssi Valdez—who met in high school in East LA, the center of Los Angeles’s Mexican American community. They emerged from the Chicano civil rights movement of the late 60s and early 70s, which fought labor exploitation, the Vietnam draft, police brutality, and other forms of discrimination and deprivation.

Their name means disgust or nausea in Spanish, and their work had a low budget look reflecting their circumstances—Gronk called it aesthetics of poverty. In the 70s, a Chicano artist was expected to paint murals—the Chicano Movement borrowed from the Mexican political mural tradition of the early 20th century. While sharing the Movement’s opposition to racial discrimination, Asco were also determined to free themselves from the straightjacket of muralism. They sometimes did this by parodying it—works like Walking Mural and Instant Mural were outrageous street performances rather than paintings on walls.

Courtesy of Nottingham Contemporary