Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art

University of Texas at Austin, TX





Just Another Poster? Chicano Graphic Arts in California

June 2 - August 13, 2000


Bold, intense, and colorful, the art of posters has long been used to express the Chicano experience. These powerful graphic messages, originally transmitted from building walls, telephone poles, and other surfaces on the urban landscape, are created by artists to raise awareness and rouse conscience. Just Another Poster? "Chicano Graphic Arts in California" is the first exhibition to explore in depth the role graphic arts have played in building community, stimulating political action, and impacting social and cultural consciousness within Chicano communities in California. Artists represented include Lalo Alcaraz, Leonard Castellanos, Yreina Cervantez, Richard Duardo, Ricardo Favela, Rupert Garcia, Louie 'The Foot' Gonzalez, Ester Hernandez, Ralph Maradiaga, José Montoya, Malaquias Montoya, Herbert Siguenza, and John Valadez. This groundbreaking exhibition of more than 100 works by 57 Chicano/a artists will be on view from June 2 - August 13, 2000 in the Blanton Museum of Art's galleries in the Art Building at The University of Texas at Austin.

The exhibition begins by questioning whether Chicano graphic art is more than "just another poster," an expression borrowed from the text of Louie 'The Foot' Gonzalez' 1976 "boycott Gallo, boycott Coors" announcement poster. The ironic implication is that this playful silkscreen print is doing something more than calling for political action. Rather, Chicano posters are distinctive artistic devices meant to express the values and concerns of the communities their images depict. (left: Ricardo Pavela, b. 1944, Centro de Artistas Chicanos, 1975, silkscreen, Collection of the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Depratmant of Special Collection, Davidson Library, UC Santa Barbara)

This investigation continues with a specific look at how Chicano posters function to stimulate political action, build community, oppose U.S. immigration policies, and promote solidarity with international liberation movements. For instance, Andrew Zenneño's famous poster, Huelga! of 1965, introduced the United Farm Workers (UFW) eagle, which became a key symbol of the movement. Other posters advertised community events, ranging from musical productions and art exhibitions to demonstrations and rallies, filling the public spaces of Chicano communities with images that provoked powerful memories and associations.

The second part of the exhibition explores the distinctive iconography of Chicano posters, which the artists drew from Mexican artistic and cultural legacies even while forging a unique Chicano visual language. Traditional cultural symbols such as the Virgin of Guadalupe or the calaveva of the Day of the Dead are reinforced while images of pachucos, cholos, and punks express alternative youth culture and are emblematic of contemporary Chicano urban identities, as epitomized in José Montoya's famous 1978 Zoot Suit.

The images in the exhibition range from the political activism of the 1960's and 1970's to the impact of global capital, national politics, and mass media in the 1990's. In the course of these decades, advances in production and distribution methods have been dramatic. But the exhibition concludes by demonstrating that, despite the changing social, political and technological landscape, the poster remains a dynamic and aesthetically compelling medium for Chicano/a artists.

"Just Another Poster?" was curated by an interdisciplinary team and organized by the University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara in collaboration with the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, UCSB, and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.

This exhibition has been funded in part by grants from: The Rockefeller Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency; the U.S.- Mexico Fund for Culture; the Intercampus Arts Program, University of California; California Council for the Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities; UC MEXUS, University of California; California Arts Council, a state agency; and the Humanities Research Institute, University of California, Irvine.

Complementing "Just Another Poster?," the Blanton Museum of Art also presents "Pressing the Point: Parallel Expression in the Graphic Arts of the Chicano and Puerto Rican Movements," organized by El Museo del Barrio in New York and featuring works both from El Museo's prominent collection, and from the Gilberto Cárdenas Collection on loan to the Blanton. This powerful exhibition unites for the first time more than 70 prints and posters by Chicano and Puerto Rican artists active in the artistic and social struggles of the 1960's and 1970's. Artists featured include Antonio Martorell, Marcos Dimas, Carlos Irizarry, and José Rosa from the Puerto Rican Movement, and Rupert Garcia, Ester Hernández, Carlos Cortez, and Yreina D. Cervántez from the Chicano movement. "Pressing the Point" can be seen from June 2 - August 13, 2000 in the Blanton Museum of Art's galleries in the Art Building at The University of Texas at Austin.

"Pressing the Point" places the work of contemporary Latino artists in the broader context of 20th-century activist art, revealing a long history of analogous activity by Chicano and Puerto Rican artists. Examples from the first half of the twentieth century illustrate the manner in which both Mexico's printmaking collective, El Taller de Gráfica Popular [Popular Graphics Workshop] from the 1940's, and Puerto Rico's El Centro de Arte Puertorriqueño [Puerto Rican Art Center] from the 1950's drew from similar iconographic and ideological traditions. While each of these early movements remained somewhat autonomous in subject matter and style, both were informed by Mexican social realism. Rafael Tufiño, for example, like many of his compatriots, left his native Puerto Rico to study printmaking with Mexican artists. In his Los cases de Ignacio y Santiago [The Tale of Ignacio and Santiago] the influence of the Mexican style is evident even while the narrative relates to issues of malnutrition in Puerto Rico's rural areas. (left: Artist Unknown, Tierra o Muerte! Venceremos, c. 1970, serigraph, Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gilberto Cardenas Collection)

Mexico's El Taller de Gráfica Popular would motivate both Chicano and Puerto Rican printmaking collectives in the 1960's and 1970's. Parallel impulses were thus reinforced, and the articulation of a cultural identity became a unifying discourse through which mobilization and political power were achieved. Artists from both movements shared the desire to communicate to a large public, the will to give back to their native communities, and the determination to work toward a collective ideal. By pressing their points of view on paper, Chicano and Puerto Rican artists of the 1960's and 1970's supplied a wealth of ideas on issues related to Latino cultural survival in the United States that are still relevant today.

In addition to the early printmaking collectives in Puerto Rico and Mexico, "Pressing the Point" represents printmaking workshops active in the 1970's, based in California, New York, and Puerto Rico: Taller Bija (PR), Taller Boricua (NY), Self Help Graphics (CA), and Galeria de la Raza (CA).

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/2/11

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