Nevada Museum of Art

Reno, NV



Enrique Chagoya: Locked in Paradise

May 6 - June 25, 2000


Superman appears beside an Aztec warrior. Cannibals wade through the waters of Monet's Garden. Through June 25, 2000, the Nevada Museum of Art (NMA) will present Enrique Chagoya: Locked in Paradise, an exhibition of paintings, prints, codices, and large-scale drawings created by Stanford University Professor of Art, Enrique Chagoya. Through a unique combination of popular culture and political commentary, Chagoya's works expose the "constant cultural confrontations" experienced by contemporary society, especially in regards to Latin American issues. The exhibition is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art. (left: El Regreso del Canibal (detail), 1998, color litho. woodcut chine, 7.5 x 92 inches)

Chagoya's work is a fusion of the opposite cultural realities. By integrating diverse elements such as pre-Colombian mythology, western religious iconography and American popular culture, his work becomes a product of collisions between historical visions both ancient and modern. These observations often result in narratives with many possible interpretations. Behind the rowdy, cartoon-like style of Chagoya's works are complex concerns such as ethnic identity, immigration policy and colonialism of the historic past and of the corporate present. His art reflects Mexican traditions of humor and political satire, as well as the influences of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya and Mexican engraver and caricaturist José Guadalupe Posada. Cartoon heroes such as Donald Duck, Olive Oyl, and Popeye appear in sinister roles and as stand-ins for mainstream authority. By quoting colonial religious paintings, Chagoya makes references to the power of the Catholic Church, and to the religious conversion of indigenous peoples. (right: Aliens, 1998, monotype, 22.25 x 30 inches)



The exhibition examines various techniques and themes explored by Chagoya since the mid-1990s including his paintings on 19th century prints, codices and paintings created on amate paper, charcoal drawings, monotypes, and etchings. Chagoya has "reversed art history" by painting directly on top of vintage 19th century etchings and texts that reproduce the works of great European masters. By dragging these images out of their cultural contexts, he creates witty and insightful looks at the conventions of European high art. The exhibition also features Chagoya's
series Homage to Goya in which his prints are almost forgeries of Francisco Goya's 19th century etchings known as the Disasters of War.

The concept for this body of work is based on Chagoya's question, "How would Goya have portrayed the events in the 20th century if he had witnessed it?" Chagoya's etchings are based on his own answers and include images of modern day political figures and commercial icons such as Linda Tripp, Jesse Helms, and the chihuahua from the 1999 Taco Bell advertising campaign.

Chagoya's books (codices) borrow the form of ancient pre-Colombian codices. These elaborate screen-fold books recorded hundreds of years of historical events, genealogies and everyday life of Mayan and Mextec civilizations. Many of the codices were destroyed during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. By using amate paper, a durable paper made from the bark of a native Mexican tree of which the originals were made, Chagoya reclaims these codices to parody the colonizers' stereotypes of people whose sophisticated customs they did not understand. He exaggerates notions of primitivism, warfare, and cannibalism to play off fears of "the other." He thus comments on attitudes towards immigrants in the United States today and on the politics of recent immigration policy, particularly in California.

The exhibition includes Chagoya's newest codice, Les Adventures des Cannibales Modernistes, which was completed in late 1999. The codice does not have a particular story, yet it is subject to multiple interpretations depending on the viewer's personal reaction to the various symbolic characters and actions within the piece. Also included are several paintings on amate paper that appear as pseudo-artifacts because the stereotypical subjects and cartoon figures are placed in a deliberately anachronistic manner.



Enrique Chagoya was born in Mexico City in 1953. As a child, he frequented museums and famous archeological sites with his family and learned about indigenous Mexican traditions from his childhood nurse, a Nahua Indian. Chagoya studied economics at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. While a student, he created political cartoons from union newsletters. He came to the United States in 1977 to work with migrant laborers, and soon after settled in California. Chagoya received his B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and his M.A. and M.F..A. from the University of California, Berkeley. His is currently an assistant professor at Stanford University and lives and works in San Francisco. Chagoya is the recipient of many honors and awards including the 1997 Biennial Award from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and a NEA Fellowship. He has shown in many solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, Mexico, and Japan. His works are represented in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, the National Museum of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.



The exhibition is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art. Lenders include Gallery Paul Anglim, San Francisco, CA; Smith Anderson Editions, Pale Alto, CA; Segura Publishing Company, Tempe, AZ; Shark's, Inc., Lyons, CO; and various private collectors.

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