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 will be 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 will feature 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 will also be 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 Hernández, the Royal Chicano Air Force, David Avalos, Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock, Sandra 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 more than 120 works drawn from SAAM’s pioneering 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, curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, with Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant. The museum will publish a major catalogue with essays by Ramos and Zapata, as well as contributions by Terezita Romo and Tatiana Reinoza, leading scholars of Chicanx and Latinx graphics.
¡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, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund.