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Current Issue: October 6, 2003
Volume 39, Number 6

University Art Museum, CSWR collaborate on print exhibit

"Ink, Paper, and Politics: Taller de Gráfica Popular," a two-part exhibition on political imagery in twentieth century Mexico, and collaboration of the UNM Art Museum and the Zimmerman Library’s Center for Southwest Research (CSWR), opened this past Friday and runs through Jan. 11.

The UNM Art Museum will exhibit more than 60 posters and a number of fine art prints. The CSWR will display fliers, handbills, periodicals, books and portfolios.

In 1937, a group of politically engaged artists banded together in Mexico City to form the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP), translated as Workshop for Popular Graphic Art. They proposed to apply the unique properties of the print—its rapid and inexpensive production and potent visual persuasion—to the consolidation and continuation of the aims of the Mexican Revolution.

The founding artists of the workshop – Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O’Higgins, and Luis Arenal –were closely associated with the Mexican Mural Movement. O’Higgins was an assistant to both Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, and all participated in the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists, known by its acronym LEAR.

Mendez, O’Higgins, and Arenal were quickly joined by other artists, and, by 1949, the influential Taller had 26 active members and a number of visiting artists, many from the United States.

The workshop’s declaration of principles stated a dedication to make art of the highest aesthetic standards, which also expressed social realities of Mexico. The goal was a technically accomplished and politically impassioned art that would teach and inspire an essentially uneducated population in the remaking of México under the egalitarian principles of the Revolution. The workshop’s use of inexpensive prints followed the tradition of José Guadalupe Posada, whose popular prints were sold widely in the streets and barrios of México City and distributed far beyond the city. Yet the TGP’s prints differed from the thousands of cheap, popular broadsides produced by Posada at the turn of the century. He depicted sensational crimes, current events, and scenes from Mexican daily life. In contrast, virtually the entire production of the Taller de Gráfica Popular was a cry for political or social action.

The Taller was structured as a true collective enterprise. Members met weekly to decide on commissions—many of which they worked on collaboratively—and to submit their work to collective critiques. Trade unions, cultural groups and government agencies hired the TGP to produce posters and handbills. In addition, the TGP printed fine art portfolios for sale to collectors, primarily in North America, and its members provided illustrations for books and periodicals. TGP images addressed a variety of causes—support for freedom of the press, workers’ rights, literacy campaigns, land reform and the nationalization of industries; and opposition to fascism and imperialism. The Taller de Gráfica Popular provided the dominant political imagery in Mexico for decades.

UNM’s Taller de Gráfica Popular Collection is one of the most extensive collections of this material outside of Mexico. It is held jointly by the University Art Museum and the Center for Southwest Research of the General Library and represents a major collections initiative. In addition to the objects on display in these two exhibitions, the CSWR holds extensive archival materials from the Taller de Gráfica Popular.

The Stockman Family Foundation provided support for conservation of the fragile materials and the UNM Latin American/ Iberian Institute for photographing and researching the poster collection.

The CSWR exhibit is open Monday-Thursday 8a.m.-midnight, Friday 8a.m.-9 p.m., and Sat. 9a.m.-6p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to midnight.

The UNM Art Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 9a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday 5-8 p.m., Sunday 1-4 p.m., and during most events at Popejoy Hall. The museum is accessible to the mobility impaired. For those with special needs, call 277-4001 one week in advance.