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Posada and Chicano Art

appeared in la Garbancera & la Cucuracha

Chicano Art, Imagery of Social Movements and José Guadalupe Posada


Author: Jim Nikas, San Francisco, California

Organizations of Mexican-Americans involving social movements have been active for many decades. In fact the roots of such organizations as they relate to Mexican influence and history extend well beyond the formation of the United States. But where Mexican artist/engraver José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) is concerned there is a perception that he was a champion of human rights and that the imagery he created supported a revolutionary perspective. Not unexpectedly this understanding of Posada's role has inspired artists in many artist collectives dedicated to producing art to effect social change. The Taller de Grafica Popular (Mexico City); the ASARO (Asambleadelos Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca, Mexico), Consejo Grafico, The Royal Chicano Airforce (both United States); and collectively the Chicano Art movement (United States) are but a few examples. 


    However, this interpretation of Posada as a revolutionary is not supported by study of his catalogue raisonné. Yet when considering the collective spirit of his labor combined with his re-discovery and re-purposing of his work in post-revolution Mexico (Figure 1) and additionally, decades later in the United States, a very different picture emerges. It gives us a revolutionary Posada and an artist of the people whose imagery is very much a part of artistic expression in today’s social movements and a significant part of the art represented in the Chicano Movement.


    In tracing the history of Posada’s reputation as a revolutionary and artist of the people it is necessary to examine a variety of interconnecting elements of Mexico’s post-revolution period in the 1920’s and 1930s while at the same time giving consideration to certain global events that contributed significant foundational components to Posada’s legacy.

    The following numerical listing attempts to place chronological events and interconnections (specifically elements 3 - 6 below) into context, it might be likened to a "connect the dots" exercise because it is only by re-constructing the various events over time with their interconnections in this way that the origin of Posada's influence emerges.


1) Initially and perhaps best referenced as foundational, was Posada’s main publisher, Antonio Vanegas Arroyo (b. Puebla 1852 - d. Mexico City 1917). Their relationship spanned approximately twenty-two years. Due to the success and continuity enjoyed by the Mexico City based Vanegas Arroyo printing house, a large body of Posada’s work continued to be seen well after the death of Posada in 1913.  


2) Printing house founder Antonio Vanegas Arroyo passed away in 1917. After his death, Antonio’s widow Carmen Rubi, Antonio’s son Blas and lastly grandson Arsacio all contributed to running the business of the printing house. Eventually, the grandson Arsacio was left solely in charge. In the decades that followed, when Arsacio was in charge of the printing house he continued promoting the legacy of Posada by organizing exhibitions and by issuing publications utilizing the printing blocks that his grandfather had commissioned from Posada. The first major exhibition of Posada's work would be held in 1943 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. 


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