"The beautiful tradition that we have in Mexico is that art takes on a sociopolitical dimension. You become a public figure. You are the spokesman of the proletariat, of the oppressed. It becomes a collective dialogue–you speak for the people through the walls you paint."
Raya's installation work depicts an aesthetic of residue that speaks of the danger and violence, the illness and mourning, that touch the edges of his life.
–Amalia Mesa Bains
To My Drinking Buddies
This is an altar-installation dedicated to all those who died in the street: to El Tío, El Maestro, Cuco, El Muñeco, Pelos del Alambre, Pinto Beans, and many more of "La Mala Vida." The wrapped bottles represent each one of my drinking buddies that died from drinking or a violent death. In the center there is a window; you can see 18th Street. From the '60s to the '80s it was known as one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago.
Los hijos de la mala vida
An acrylic on canvas, it took one year to finish, and was twenty years in the making ('70s and '80s). It is now part of the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago.
Los hijos de la mala vida depicts seven of my late drinking buddies, a group portrait: another day of drinking on 18th Street. At one point I included my own portrait in the painting, but, convinced I was back in the world of the living, I decided to paint it out. Instead, I added the image of a stray dog that was adopted by one of the group–even the dog died.