Chicano prison art

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Hello everyone! Have you ever heard of paño? The word comes from pañuelo, which means handkerchief in Spanish. I read about an exhibition in Agenda Magazine last week, called: Paños, Chicano Prison Art. It’s a small exhibition in Recyclart, close to the Central Station.

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Here you see half of the exhibition room, so it’s really small, although it’s big enough to expose over 200 paños. Before I show you my favorite ones, let me briefly explain what it means. Chicano is a term that is used to describe the identity of Mexican people living in the US. It’s a mix of Mexican & American culture and it’s often about the struggle of not belonging to one of these cultures, a feeling of in-between. The Chicano community is very proud of its identity and has its own artistic style. The handkerchiefs were collected in American prisons. They were used as a way of communicating with the outside world, but also as a form of artistic expression.

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The handkerchiefs with religies themes are usually made for family members.

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These ones are kind of cute compared to the ones they make for fellow gang members, as in the next picture.

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It makes me think of a movie scene where someone gets killed. Very dark and a bit creepy. The clownesk faces are typical for the Chicano art culture.

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Other typical elements: skulls, pinup girls and guns.

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… and fancy cars & motorcycles.

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Girls, clowns, bandanas & skulls.

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And this is my favorite paño! Since today is Father’s Day, this one is for all the fathers :). The drawing is really funny, but the text is so heartbreaking! In general, the drawings are waaaaay too macho for me, but I like their human aspect. If you look underneath the macho layer, these prisoners are very capable of expressing their emotions when communicating with their family.

More info?

The collection of paños belongs to the French artist Reno Leplat-Torti and is presented in Recyclart by Jimmy Pantera.  You can go see them until 19/06/2015. Sometimes the exhibition room is closed, but ask about it at the reception desk (according the opening hours) and they will open it for you. If you really love the Chicano culture, there are shirts for sale as well. 

http://www.recyclart.be/nl/agenda/panos

http://www.vice.com/read/paos-chicanos-171

http://www.bdw.be/nl/agenda/magazine/2015-05-29

See you later!

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