Jean-Michel Basquiat, Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), 1983. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / ARS, New York 2016.

Asco on the Cover of Artforum

Asco on the Cover of Artforum October 2011

Decoy Gang War Victim, a work by Asco, the influential Chicano artist collective from the ’70s and ’80s is on the cover of the October 2011 issue of Artforum. The exhibition Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987 now on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will be coming to the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in February 2012. The exhibition was co-curated by LACMA Curator of Contemporary Art, Rita Gonzalez and Williams College Associate Professor of Art, C. Ondine Chavoya.

Original Asco member Harry Gamboa Jr. talks about the cover image in L.A. Stories, A Rountable Discussion in Artforum. He says, “Decoy Gang War Victim is an Asco image that I photographed in 1974. It shows a young man stretched out, seemingly lifeless, across an East LA street lighted by road flares emitting reddish sparks and by the bluish hue of mercury vapor lamps. The resulting 35-mm color slide was delivered to various local TV stations and accompanied by the notice that the “last gang member” had been killed, thereby ending violence in the barrio. The image was televised by at least two TV stations. The project was a response to the incendiary tabloid-style journalism of the two major Los Angeles newspapers, which often listed the names, addresses, workplaces, and gang affiliations of victims or their family members in an effort to maintain high levels of reciprocal gang violence, thus selling more newspapers.”

The Artforum Asco cover caught the attention of Emily Colucci writer for the blogazine Hyperallergic. In an article titled Before Occupy Wall Street, Artforum Remembers There Was Asco she says,”Usually associated with long-winded art historical articles and page after page of gallery ads, Artforum made an unexpected but exciting move in their October issue by placing Asco, a politically radical Chicano artist collective from the 1970s on the cover.” In her article Colucci expresses a desire for the art surrounding the Occupy Wall Street Protests to be as “articulate and hard-hitting as Asco.”


Cover image above: Asco, “Decoy Gang War Victim” (1974), color photograph on Artforum’s October Issue (photo by Harry Gamboa Jr, via

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