¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now

National Tour

Smithsonian American Art Museum
in Washington, DC
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
in Fort Worth, Texas
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth
in Hanover, New Hampshire
Frist Art Museum
in Nashville, Tennessee
Media - 2012.53.1 - SAAM-2012.53.1_1 - 82036

Leonard Castellanos, RIFA, from Méchicano 1977 Calendario, 1976, screenprint on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum

In the 1960s, activist Chicano artists forged a remarkable history of printmaking that remains vital today. Many artists came of age during the civil rights, labor, anti-war, feminist and LGBTQ+ movements and channeled the period’s social activism into assertive aesthetic statements that announced a new political and cultural consciousness among people of Mexican descent in the United States. ¡Printing the Revolution! explores the rise of Chicano graphics within these early social movements and the ways in which Chicanx artists since then have advanced innovative printmaking practices attuned to social justice.

More than reflecting the need for social change, the works in this exhibition project and revise notions of Chicanx identity, spur political activism and school viewers in new understandings of U.S. and international history. By employing diverse visual and artistic modes from satire, to portraiture, appropriation, conceptualism, and politicized pop, the artists in this exhibition build an enduring and inventive graphic tradition that has yet to be fully integrated into the history of U.S. printmaking.

 

This exhibition is the first to unite historic civil rights era prints alongside works by contemporary printmakers, including several that embrace expanded graphics that exist beyond the paper substrate. While the dominant mode of printmaking among Chicanx artists remains screen-printing, this exhibition features works in a wide range of techniques and presentation strategies, from installation art, to public interventions, augmented reality and shareable graphics that circulate in the digital realm. The exhibition also is the first to consider how Chicanx mentors, print centers and networks nurtured other artists, including several who drew inspiration from the example of Chicanx printmaking.

Artists and collectives featured in the exhibition include Rupert García, Malaquias Montoya, Ester Hernandez, the Royal Chicano Air Force, Elizabeth SiscoLouis HockDavid Avalos, Sandra C. Fernández, Juan de Dios Mora, the Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, Enrique Chagoya, René Castro, Juan Fuentes, and Linda Lucero, among others.

¡Printing the Revolution! features 119 works drawn from SAAM’s leading collection of Latinx art. The museum’s Chicanx graphics holdings rose significantly with an important gift in 1995 from the renowned scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto. Since then, other major donations and an ambitious acquisition program has built one of the largest museum collections of Chicanx graphics on the East Coast.

This exhibition is organized by E. Carmen Ramos, acting chief curator and curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, with Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant for Latinx art. A major catalogue accompanies the exhibition with essays by Ramos and Zapata, as well as contributions by Tatiana Reinoza, assistant professor of art history at the University of Notre Dame; and Terezita Romo, an art historian, curator, and writer.

Note¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now was originally scheduled to open to the public in September 2020. The Smithsonian closed all its museums on March 14, 2020 as a public health precaution due to the global pandemic, which delayed the exhibition opening to November 20. ¡Printing the Revolution! was open for three days before the Smithsonian closed again on November 23. It re-opened for a final run from May 14 through August 8, 2021. 

Exhibition Catalogue

¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now

Publisher
Publisher: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, in association with Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford
Beginning in the 1960s, activist Chicano artists forged a remarkable history of printmaking that remains vital today. Many artists came of age during the civil rights, labor, anti-war, feminist and LGBTQ+ movements, and channeled the period’s social activism into assertive aesthetic statements that announced a new political and cultural consciousness among people of Mexican descent in the United States. The exhibition ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now presents, for the first time, historical civil rights-era prints by Chicano artists alongside works by graphic artists working from the 1980s to today.

Video

Date
  • In the 1960s, activist Chicano artists forged a remarkable history of printmaking that remains vital today. Many artists came of age during the civil rights, labor, anti-war, feminist and LGBTQ+ movements and channeled the period’s social activism into assertive aesthetic statements that announced a new political and cultural consciousness among people of Mexican descent in the United States. ¡Printing the Revolution! explores the rise of Chicano graphics within these early social movements and the ways in which Chicanx artists since then have advanced innovative printmaking practices attuned to social justice.

    E. CARMEN RAMOS: “Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now” is an exhibition that documents and explores the explosion of graphic artists among Chicano artists starting in the Civil Rights era.

    CLAUDIA ZAPATA: This exhibition features the best of the best of Chicano art history. “Sun Mad” by Ester Hernandez, “You Are Not a Minority!!” by Mario Torero, “Cesen Deportacion!” by Rupert Garcia, “Yo Soy Chicano” by Malaquias Montoya.

    CR: But the show really continues to the present day because this graphic arts movement that emerged during the Civil Rights era is still thriving among artists working today. One of the most important concepts, I think, for this exhibition is one of engagement. Many artists define themselves as activists that use their own creativity to support and raise visibility for social justice in the United States. For example, there were several artists that supported the efforts of Cesar Chaves and Dolores Huerta to organize farm workers.

    The 1960s and ‘70s were a transformative moment in American culture. The Mexican-American community responded to really the example of the African American Civil Rights movement and started to define what civil rights meant to them, what it meant to be a person of Mexican descent in the United States. Many artists were interested in investigating aspects of Chicano culture and defining that culture really for the first time in a public kind of way.

    CZ: In 1970, Ruben Salazar famously wrote, “A Chicano is a Mexican American with a non-Anglo image of himself.” When Ruben Salazar defined what it was to be Chicano, it was at a very specific moment when people were really reclaiming and embracing their identities. They no longer were accepting of being these marginalized communities. They have continued since then, constantly fighting this battle of being interpreted as less than.

    Looking back at Salazar’s definition, we really have gone beyond it. I always see Chicano as this open-source concept. Using the example from computer software language where there’s a bit of code that’s constantly and collaboratively always updated and improved. In this exhibition, you’ll see several forms of the Chicano term, from Chicano to Chicana to Chicanx. The term Chicano has progressed and evolved, but people still hold onto it. That’s the most important part, and they want to acknowledge its validity and its power, and they want to stay connected to the elders that really began the fight. Chicano, originally, is very much about loving oneself.

    CR: The graphic medium is so important as a site of this articulation of Chicano and Mexican-American identity because it was affordable. It was easy to reproduce and disseminate, and it was also an artform that could be public. Many of the works in the exhibition are posters meant to be displayed in public space, meant to convey information about an event or a cause.

    CZ: In present day, this sort of dissemination happens now in the digital sphere. More of digital works may have never existed in paper form. Often times, artists create these works in order to share quickly a message across social media networks. Anyone can download the works, print it, and use it in a protest.

    CR: The Chicano graphic movement was inclusive from the very start, incorporating people that were non-Chicano. We wanted to make sure to acknowledge that. In “Printing the Revolution,” you’ll see works by white artists, you’ll see works by Latinx artists from other communities, you’ll see works by Asian-American artists. It really reflects the cross-cultural nature of activism. Artists today are continuing to explore some of the themes and issues that emerged in a very public way in the 1960s; immigration reform was something that emerged strongly in the early 1970s and continues today among artists.

    CZ: Several artworks feature victims of police brutality from the 1970s to present day.

    CR: Part of what’s revealed is that, of course, our social goals to create a more perfect union are incomplete.

    CZ: There’s never been an exhibition like “Printing the Revolution.” An exhibition of this scope is rare, and no exhibition prior has included digital images.

    CR: This exhibition I thought was very well matched to the Smithsonian American Art Museum because it has been the goal of our Latinx Territorial program to really document the work of Latinx artists who have been largely excluded from the narratives of American art. We were very interested in bringing this amazing history to light, to share it with our audiences, and to really investigate the perspectives of Chicano artists that have led us to think about American history in a whole new way.
    Media Series
    Date
  • On November 19, 2020 the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrate the opening of its landmark exhibition ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now, which unites historic civil rights era prints alongside works by contemporary graphic artists for the first time.

    Artists Juan Fuentes, Ester Hernandez, and Zeke Peña participated in a moderated online conversation about the social justice roots of their work and the importance of Chicanx graphics in American visual culture. Preview this groundbreaking exhibition before it opens to the public and learn more about the importance of activist collecting and the growth of SAAM’s Chicanx graphics collection with collectors Gil Cárdenas, Ricardo and Harriett Romo, Rosa Terrazas, and exhibition curator and acting chief curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum E. Carmen Ramos.

    The artists featured in ¡Printing the Revolution! use vibrant posters and prints, installations, and augmented reality to address larger social causes that reflect the political climate of their time, including the civil rights, labor, anti-war, feminist, LGBTQ+ rights, and Black Lives Matter movements. The exhibition offers an expanded view of American art and the history of graphic arts, featuring previously marginalized voices from Chicano art, including women and LGBTQ+ individuals. ¡Printing the Revolution! considers how artists have used and continue to use the medium to engage the public, address social justice concerns, and wrestle with shifting notions of the term Chicano.

    Date
  • On January 26, 2021, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) presented a virtual conversation featuring artists whose work is represented in the landmark exhibition ¡Printing the Revolution!: The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now. The conversation highlighted Chicanx artistic exchanges and mentorships across generations, which grew out of an ongoing and mutual commitment to empower marginalized communities and support global liberation struggles. This cross-generational panel featured artists who have worked in the Bay Area together for years, using their artwork as a vehicle for international solidarity and social change. 

    Participants included Juan Fuentes, a renowned printmaker, and activist, who was the former executive director of Mission Gráfica at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, one of the major print centers dedicated to transnational artistic exchange; and Dignidad Rebelde (Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes), an artistic collective based in Oakland, California. Their artwork highlights support for Indigenous rights, Palestinian solidarity, and the Black Lives Matter movement. The panel was moderated by Terezita Romo, an art historian, curator, and a lecturer and affiliate faculty member at the University of California, Davis. Romo is also a contributor to the ¡Printing the Revolution! catalogue.

    This program is part of an online conversation series that examines Chicanx graphics and how artists have used printmaking to debate larger social causes, reflect on issues of their time, and build community. Hear from artists, scholars, and activists about the Chicanx graphics movement, from civil rights–era prints to today’s digital landscape.

    This program received generous support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

    Date
  • On March 25, 2021, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) presented a virtual conversation featuring artists included in the landmark exhibition “¡Printing the Revolution!: The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now.”

    The conversation highlighted how Chicanx artists and print centers have welcomed, nurtured, and collaborated with non-Chicanx artists from the early civil rights era to today, creating a long legacy of influence and support across communities.

    Participants include Jos Sances, a San Francisco–based artist and master printer, who co-founded Mission Gráfica in 1980, founded Alliance Graphics in 1989, and is a founding member of the performance group The Great Tortilla Conspiracy; and Pepe Coronado, founder of the Coronado Print Studio and a founding member of the Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, a collective of Dominican American artists devoted to printmaking and the exploration of Dominican diasporic history and culture. This virtual conversation is moderated by Tatiana Reinoza, a specialist in Latinx printmaking and assistant professor of art history at the University of Notre Dame. Reinoza is also a contributor to the “¡Printing the Revolution!” catalogue. Explore the impact and legacy of printmaking that unites artists who are integral members of the Chicanx arts movement.

    This program is part of an online conversation series that examines Chicanx graphics and how artists have used printmaking to debate larger social causes, reflect on issues of their time, and build community. Hear from artists, scholars, and activists about the Chicanx graphics movement, from civil rights–era prints to today’s digital landscape.

    This program received generous support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

    Date
  • Date
  • On May 13, 2021, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) presented a virtual conversation featuring artists from ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now who use digital strategies as a form of political advocacy for issues such as immigration, the commodification of personal data, and LGBTQ+ rights. Learn more about how the digital realm is defining a new chapter of Chicanx graphics and how artists use technologically based artwork to critique Big Tech, as well as distribute digital graphics across social media networks as a unifying call for social justice.  
     
    Panelists include San Antonio–based artist Michael Menchaca, whose multimedia works incorporate ancient Mesoamerican iconography and digital interfaces to comment on tech culture and its adverse effects on communities of color; and Los Angeles–based undocumented queer artist and social justice activist Julio Salgado, who is best known for his digital images supporting the migrant rights movement. This virtual conversation is moderated by Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant for Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Zapata also authored the essay “Chicanx Art in the Digital Age,” in the ¡Printing the Revolution! catalogue.  
     
    This program is part of an online conversation series that examines Chicanx graphics and how artists have used printmaking to debate larger social causes, reflect on issues of their time, and build community. Hear from artists, scholars, and activists about the Chicanx graphics movement, from civil rights–era prints to today’s digital landscape. 
     
    This program received generous support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

    Date
  • This online edition of Justice for Our Lives by Oree Originol will appear from Tuesday, May 25 through Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. ET to mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death. The ongoing online and public social justice artwork Justice for Our Lives includes 100 portraits of other individuals killed by law enforcement. Justice for Our Lives was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and is part of a long history of art that unites portraiture and memorialization. Throughout time, artists, individuals, and communities have used portraits to remember the deceased and to give solace and voice to the living. A site-specific installation of Justice for Our Lives appears currently at the entrance to SAAM’s landmark exhibition ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    SAAM Stories

    3D Tour

    Experience "¡Printing the Revolution!" in a 3D Virtual Tour

    Explore ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics,1965 to Now from anywhere in this virtual experience. Immerse yourself in bold and innovative graphic art and learn about the history and traditions of the Chicano movement while virtually moving through SAAM's galleries. 

    Take the Tour

    Changemakers Portraits

    These portraits reveal how Chicanx artists and their collaborators highlight individuals past and present whose actions have shaped the course of history.

    Shareable Graphics

    These digital images are part of Chicanx artists shareable graphics practice where artworks are freely shared online.

    Visual Connections

    Look at works from ¡Printing the Revolution! alongside related images.

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    Credits

    ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from The Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, Michael Abrams and Sandra Stewart, The Honorable Aida Alvarez, Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins, Ford Foundation, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, HP, William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund, Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation, Lannan Foundation, and Henry R. Muñoz, III and Kyle Ferari-Muñoz.

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