Sunday, August 16, 2009

Art: Viva La Revolución

I'm sure you remember Shepard Fairey's powerful and iconic Hope posters that were everywhere during the 2008 presidential election. Well, I would like to offer you a different flavor of politically-charged graphic art. First, let's go back 100 years to the months leading up to the Mexican Revolution.

Jose Guadalupe Posada, in the last years of his life, printed hundreds of volantes (flyers) with images of politicians and folk heroes. The volantes were designed to bring knowledge of politics and current events to a largely illiterate working class. The most striking aspect of Posada's work was his use of Calaveras, or animated skeletons.

Although Posada was virtually unknown while he was alive, his artwork has become the foundation of Mexican printmaking and political art. His art inspired the Mexican Muralists (Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Siqueros) and later influenced the creation of the Taller de Grafica Popular (which translates to the People's Graphic Arts Workshop).

Founded in 1937 by Leopoldo Mendez, Luis Arenal, and Pablo O'Higgins, the TGP picked up where Posada had left off by printing volantes and larger posters called carteles. But the TGP had a different agenda--while Posada's prints were mostly satirical, the TGP generated artwork that advocated worker's rights and attacked fascism. For roughly 20 years, the TGP flourished until television and radio rendered the volantes and carteles obsolete. Today, the Taller has been reduced to an after-school program for young artists in Mexico City.

But the revolutionary fires still burn in Oaxaca, Mexico. A new group of young artists called the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca ,or ASARO Collective, was created in 2006 in response to the political turmoil sparked by a teacher's strike in June of that year. The ASARO Collective creates prints, posters, stencils, and stickers that are critical of the Mexican Government, Capitalism, and the mistreatment of indigenous people of Oaxaca.
Some ASARO artists are focussing on the upcoming 100 year anniversary of the 1910 Mexican Revolution by printing modern "punk" versions of revolutionary icon, Emiliano Zapata (left). Since 2006, ASARO has gained a considerable amount of attention. They now have their own studio called Espacio Zapata and have recently had several exhibits of their work tour throughout the United States.

So when you get tired of seeing Obama's beautiful red, white, and blue face on every blank wall in the US, check out the artwork of some real revolutionaries.


Anonymous said...

Dan, Well said. For more on the TGP, check out this story on and its links:

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