Force for culture

Royal Chicano Air Force founders Ricardo Favela, José Montoya and Esteban Villa.

Royal Chicano Air Force founders Ricardo Favela, José Montoya and Esteban Villa.

In this air force, there are no bombs, guns or bullets—only pens and paintbrushes. Born at the end of the tumultuous 1960s, the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) banded a group of local artists together in a cultural battalion to foster recognition for the Chicano movement and its target of social and political rights.

The RCAF became well-known for mural paintings, art posters and individual artistic contributions, supporting the United Farm Workers and working on other political reform causes. Fast-forward to the new century, when Royal Chicano Air Force: 37 Years of Culture con Cultura (exhibited at La Raza Galeria Posada, at 1421 R Street, until June 25) celebrates the group’s history.

Featuring work by founding RCAF artists José Montoya, Esteban Villa and Ricardo Favela, the exhibit offers the participating artists’ personal sketchbooks and even their napkin doodles for a rare voyeuristic peek at their inner visions and dreams. But it’s not all about the past.

Montoya rises significantly in his compadre Armando Cepeda’s 2005 “RCAF Recruiting Poster.” There—with an idyllic, cloud-studded, azure sky behind him—an unmistakable, picture-perfect Montoya points his finger at the viewer, with the words “I want you—to continue your education” emblazoned next to him. It’s no surprise that renowned poet Montoya should be the Uncle Sam of education. The retired California State University, Sacramento, art professor helped initiate the Barrio Art Program requiring university students to teach art in the community.