Raymond “Ray” Patlán (born 1946) was born on the South Side of Chicago and grew up in the Mexican American community of Pilsen. He trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico. Patlán’s first engagement with public art occurred in 1970 at the community center Casa Aztlán, where he painted Salón de la Raza, an illustration of Mexican history and key figures from the Chicano movement, including César E. Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Patlán also created the mural on the façade of Casa Aztlán, which included portraits “to reflect the community as I saw it.” He solicited community feedback in the process of executing murals, a commitment and philosophy he continued in San Francisco’s Mission District during the 1980s. He was influenced by the Chicano civil rights movement's ethos of collective empowerment and recalls working with farmworkers in Chicago as part of organizing the grape strike and boycott beginning in 1965. His investment in community empowerment and art continued in collaborations with Patricia Rodriguez in leading the PLACA collective in 1984, which organized mural production in Balmy Alley. Muralists responded to the influx of Central Americans to the Mission due to the civil wars in the region, denounced U.S. military intervention in the conflicts, and provided visual representation of Central Americans. The mural Y tú y yo y qué, painted in 1985 in collaboration with muralist Carlos “Kookie” Gonzalez, exemplifies Patlán’s philosophy of collaboration and collectivism. Much like his earlier work on the façade of Casa Aztlán, it portrayed community members, events, and key movement figures. His latest work is a multipanel portable mural for Casa de la Misión, an affordable housing site in the Mission District.
Kevin Cruz Amaya
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