Radical Histories: Chicanx Prints from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

A vivid illustration of a person with butterfly wings. On the person's body are the words "I exist/yo existo." The wings have messages of love, family, and migration.

Julio Salgado, Queer Butterfly: I Exist, 2019, inkjet print on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Lichtenberg Family Foundation, 2020.37.5, © 2020, Julio Salgado

Since the 1960s, Chicanx artists have used the graphic medium to disseminate declarations of political advocacy, cross-cultural solidarity, and historical reflections to rethink the past. Radical Histories concentrates on Chicanx artists’ efforts to contest and dismantle American history, creating graphic counter-histories from ancient to contemporary. There is a persistent unlearning that the featured works request, openly defying notions of American exceptionalism, heteronormativity, whiteness, and borders.

Description

Since the 1960s, Chicanx artists have used graphic arts to educate and agitate, presenting a vast array of political and social themes designed to challenge the status quo. Their artworks are declarations of political advocacy, cross-cultural solidarity, and an effort to reclaim past histories. Radical Histories: Chicanx Prints from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is a continuation of SAAM’s first exhibition on the subject, the landmark ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now.  

While ¡Printing the Revolution! examined the rise of Chicano graphics as a movement and the continued advancement of innovative printmaking practices attuned to social justice, Radical Histories concentrates on Chicanx artists’ efforts to contest and reassert multiple views of American history. It focuses on artists creating graphic counter-histories—from ancient to contemporary times—defying notions of American exceptionalism, heteronormativity, whiteness, and borders.  

Radical Histories features 60 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 have built one of the largest museum collections of Chicanx graphics on the East Coast. Radical Histories includes work by more than 40 artists and collectives including Lalo Alcaraz, Yreina D. Cervántez, Dignidad Rebelde (Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes), Juan Fuentes, Rupert García, Ester Hernandez, Luis Jiménez, Alma Lopez, Yolanda López, Malaquias Montoya, Royal Chicano Air Force, among others. 

Radical Histories showcases Chicanx artists’ role in using political graphics to galvanize community support around issues of labor equality. They were pivotal in supporting the farm workers’ movements of California and Texas, creating vivid images using satire, politicized pop, and conceptualism, while also embracing innovative DIY printmaking methods. Chicanx artists employed sequential art narratives based on established traditions such as Mexican codices, reimagined popular calendar formats, and created elaborate multilingual event posters to augment political actions and bring awareness to anti-war and pro-peace movements. They continue to grapple with recurring themes such as the grim realities of immigration and violence in borderlands.  

The exhibition also explores commemorative portraiture, a prominent art form that Chicanx artists utilize to reconceive the story of America. Using photographs as references, Chicanx artists resurrect and memorialize unknown and underrepresented artists and historical figures to provide long-overdue recognition for the important societal contributions of individuals who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.  

Highlighting the importance of language in Chicanx graphics, the exhibition examines the  interplay between text and image—exploring use of poetry, graffiti, and historical quotations, among other literary devices— in the artists’ efforts to reconceive America.  

Media - 2019.50.4 - SAAM-2019.50.4_1 - 142426
Huelga
Date2009
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.52.8 - SAAM-2019.52.8_3 - 146771
Untitled (No compre en Safeway/​Don’t buy at Safeway)
Artist
Unidentified
Daten.d.
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 1995.50.50 - SAAM-1995.50.50_2 - 138140
El Teatro campesino, viva la huelga!
Artist
Unidentified
Date1965
mechanical reproduction on paper
Not on view
Media - 1996.47.1 - SAAM-1996.47.1_2 - 134948
La Lechuga
Date1974
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 1995.50.47 - SAAM-1995.50.47_2 - 138139
BOYCOTTGRAPES& LETTUCE
Date1976
screenprint on paperboard
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.56 - SAAM-2019.51.56_1 - 142434
Lechuga Lucha
Date2014
lithograph and screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.43.2 - SAAM-2019.43.2_1 - 142963
Hasta la Gloria (40th anniversary edition)
Date2017
inkjet print on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.45.5 - SAAM-2020.45.5_1 - 142464
¡Huelga! Texas Farmworkers Union
Artist
Unidentified
Dateca. 1977
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.52.52 - SAAM-2019.52.52_1 - 142440
Untitled (Chicano Moratorium)
Date1970
screenprint
Not on view
Media - 2020.24.3 - SAAM-2020.24.3_1 - 142451
The Game
Date2001
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.54.3 - SAAM-2019.54.3_1 - 140156
Untitled (Richard Nixon and bomb)
Dateca. 1969-1973
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.42.4 - SAAM-2020.42.4_1 - 142463
¡Fuera de Indochina!
Date1970
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.24.1 - SAAM-2020.24.1_1 - 142450
Guerillera
Date2001
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.47.3 - SAAM-2020.47.3_1 - 142465
The Salvadorean People’s Support Committee
Date1981
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.54.1 - SAAM-2019.54.1_1 - 140154
Stop!! Wells Fargo Bank Loans to Chile
Date1979
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.10 - SAAM-2019.51.10_1 - 142427
Dog Byte
Date2010
woodcut and screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.50.41A-B - SAAM-2019.50.41A-B_1 - 142423
Winter in America
Date2014
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.48.3 - SAAM-2020.48.3_1 - 142468
La Llorona Desperately Seeking Coyolxauhqui
Date2003
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.43.2 - SAAM-2020.43.2_1 - 138927
Who’s the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim?
Date1978
offset lithograph on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.39.6 - SAAM-2020.39.6_1 - 142457
Brown and Proud
Date2010
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.24.9 - SAAM-2020.24.9_1 - 142453
Iron Will
Date2013
screenprint with vinyl and thread
Not on view
Media - 2020.37.5 - SAAM-2020.37.5_1 - 142455
Queer Butterfly: I Exist
Date2019
inkjet print on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.50.23 - SAAM-2019.50.23_1 - 138122
Codex Vidiot Vidi
Date2014
digital print
Not on view
Media - 2019.52.7 - SAAM-2019.52.7_1 - 142442
Abajo con la migra
Date1977
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.44 - SAAM-2019.51.44_1 - 142432
¡Alerta! (Beware!)
Date1987
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.50.13 - SAAM-2019.50.13_1 - 142421
Border Crossing
Date1987
lithograph on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.35.1 - SAAM-2019.35.1_1 - 142419
Ya Mero Llego (Almost There)
Date2019
linocut on paper
Not on view
Media - 1996.47.2 - SAAM-1996.47.2_2 - 134954
Justicia
Date1975
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.36.2 - SAAM-2020.36.2_1 - 138888
Xicano Bicentenial 1776 – 1976
Date1976
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.15 - SAAM-2019.51.15_1 - 142428
New World Order
Date1994
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.36.4 - SAAM-2020.36.4_1 - 142454
Cortés Nos Chingó in a Big Way The Hüey
Date1976
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.33 - SAAM-2019.51.33_1 - 142430
América
Date1986
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.48.2 - SAAM-2020.48.2_1 - 142467
Chuparosa
Date2002
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 1993.13.4 - SAAM-1993.13.4_1 - 88364
Ricardo Flores-Magón
Date1978
linocut on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.2 - SAAM-2019.51.2_1 - 142429
Don Pedrito Jaramillo
Date1976
woodcut on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.24.4 - SAAM-2020.24.4_1 - 142452
Guerillera
Date2001
screenprint on handmade paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.50.1 - SAAM-2019.50.1_1 - 142422
Antonia
Date2005
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.39.2 - SAAM-2020.39.2_1 - 142456
Barbz 85
Date2018
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.20.102 - SAAM-2020.20.102_1 - 138992
Frida Kahlo
Date1990
silkscreen on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.52 - SAAM-2020.52_1 - 142469
Viva Yalitza (Yalitza Aparicio Martínez)
Date2019
offset lithograph on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.20.83 - SAAM-2020.20.83_1 - 139003
Posters and Society
Date1974
offset lithograph
Not on view
Media - 2020.20.86 - SAAM-2020.20.86_1 - 138984
March in Raleigh
Date1976
offset lithograph
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.55 - SAAM-2019.51.55_1 - 142433
En Lucha, Ernesto Cardenal
Date1983
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.51.68 - SAAM-2019.51.68_1 - 142435
Ralph Maradiaga
Date1986
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.19.2 - SAAM-2020.19.2_1 - 138863
Favela
Date2004
screenprint on paper
Not on view
Media - 2020.20.82 - SAAM-2020.20.82_1 - 139002
Jose G. Posada
Date1974
offset lithograph
Not on view
Media - 2020.19.5 - SAAM-2020.19.5_1 - 144072
Stand
Date2019
augmented reality digital print on paper
Not on view
Media - 2019.52.6 - SAAM-2019.52.6_1 - 142441
I Am Somebody: Together We Are Strong
Artist
Dateca. 1975
screenprint on paper
Not on view