A Tribute to Jose Guadalupe Posada: Round 2

4 Jan

It’s that time of year again!  Time to honor the “Father of Mexican Printmaking,” Jose Guadalupe Posada.

Jose Posada was born on February 2, 1852 in Aguascalientes.  In the short, 61 years that Posada lived, he produced tens of thousands of images for newspapers, chapbooks and songbooks.  The Center for Southwest Research in New Mexico alone holds almost 400 of Posada’s images in its digital collection!

Beginning as a lithographer, Posada is credited with inventing the zinc relief method, in which he drew directly onto a plate with greasy ink and then submerged the plate in an acid bath.  The result is a relief etching (similar to a linocut or woodcut) made of metal.  It is suggested that he developed this method in order to work more quickly and freely.  In fact, in the Manuel MANILLA monograph, Jean Charlot states that the older engraver was “no match for vigor of Guadalupe Posadas,” (sic) a younger, faster artist.

The retirement of Manilla left Posada as the master of the broadside, working for Vanegas Arroyo to produce the “penny presses” so popular during the time of the revolution.  Through these leaflets, Posada mocked the ruling class, politicians and those who thought themselves to be beyond reproach.  His relentless and irreverent humor was later noted by Andre Breton to be, “the triumph of humor in its pure and full state.”  Breton compared Posada’s humor to Spain’s Francisco de Goya (see Los Caprichos) and France’s Honore Daumier.

Posada’s populist humor and sensibility resulted in the production of one of our most popular current pop culture icons:  La Calavera Catrina.  All over the world, this female dandy (also known as La Pelona, La Calaca–see this loteria game for more pseudonyms) can be recognized as the face of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), reminding us that–rich or poor–death is the great equalizer.

Despite his notoreity among artists and printmakers, and his influence on popular culture, Posada–and the Latin American tradition of Printmaking in general–remains unknown to most people.

In fact, even the book Prints and People:  A Social History of Printed Pictures, a venerable “Who’s Who” of populist printmakers includes Posada as the sole representative of Latin American Printmaking.  It states that, ” Mexican worked lacked interest until…the Revolution…released the only vivid personality among popular printmakers, a self-taught Indian, Guadalupe Posada.  This heir to the sanguinary promptness of the Aztecs modernized their lurid humor in ballad sheets of throat cutting and the firing squad and Halloween broadsides of skeletal highjinks.”

We know now, with the release of the Manuel Manilla Monograph, of course that this statement is not wholly true.  And, if one is familiar with Latin American Art at all, one knows that the tradition did not die along with Posada, nor was it focused merely in Mexico*.

Today, Printmaking continues to be the media of choice amongst artists who wish to disseminate their work on a large scale.  Prints are relatively inexpensive (compared to “one-of-a-kind” objects such as paintings) and easily reproducible, thus allowing the artist to spread the word to a wide audience.

In honor of this legacy, in honor of the enduring process of printmaking which traveled from Asia to the Old World and then crossed into the New World–being altered, modified and synthesized as it fell into the hands of a mestizo man named Jose Guadalupe Posada–The Museum of Latin American Art is proud to present it’s second annual “Tribute to Jose Guadalupe Posada Printmaking Series”

A Tribute to Jose Guadalupe Posada Printmaking Series

Two-Session Series: January 9th & January 23rd from 12-4 p.m. (participants must register for both workshops)

Instructor: Gabriela Martinez

Fees: $40 for the entire series/members  $50 for the entire series/non-members.

Materials included.

To register go to the MOLAA Website.

*One very Mexican organization (which also included Americans Pablo O’Higgins and Elizabeth Catlett) is the Taller de Grafica Popular, established in 1938.  This collective included both humorous and not-so-humorous artists and strove to continue the critique established by Posada.  In South America,journals like Aumata featured the writings of Jose Carlos Mariategui as well as prints by artists such as Jose Sabogal.  The indigenistas, among them Eduardo Kingman and Oswaldo Guayasamin, used prints to depict the daily lives of the Indians of South America.

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