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 and UT Art History alum (BA, 2005; MA, 2009), ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now is the first to unite historic civil rights era prints alongside works by contemporary printmakers. The exhibition is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) from May 14 — Aug. 8, 2021.
Artists and collectives featured in the exhibition include the Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA collective, of which UT Studio Art Assistant Professor Scherezade García-Vazquez is a former member. Her piece, Day Dreaming/Soñando despierta, from the portfolio Manifestaciones, is included in the exhibition, alongside works from Rupert García, Malaquias Montoya, Ester Hernandez, the Royal Chicano Air Force, Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock, David Avalos, Sandra C. Fernández, Juan de Dios Mora, Enrique Chagoya, René Castro, Juan Fuentes, and Linda Lucero, among others.
"In the 1960s, activist Chicano artists forged a remarkable history of printmaking that remains vital today," reads the Smithsonian's exhibition description.
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....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.
Curators Ramos and Zapata drew from 119 works in SAAM’s collection of Latinx art, many of which were donated by legendary Chicano art historian Tomás Ybarra-Frausto in 1995. In a two-part series between the two curators, Ramos and Zapata discuss the origins of the exhibition, Chicano as a term employed in the exhibition, and how each of them came to this work. In response to the question of why they wanted to pursue this project, Zapata responded, "I worked with [Austin's] Mexic-Arte Museum’s vast graphics collection, archived the Serie Project residency, and my dissertation looks at exhibitions featuring Chicano art, so, I have been steeped in this content.
Throughout these endeavors I have encountered polarizing interpretations of Chicano art: some argue it is dead; others say it is in a “post” period; others want it to exist in a very specific conceptual framework; and then there’s reality. It’s also unique for there to even be a major Chicano exhibition; aside from the recent Pacific Standard Time collaborations, exhibitions such as these are quite rare. I was eager to see what SAAM’s stance would be on interpreting this material at a national level, versus regional or collector-specific. Given Tomás Ybarra-Frausto’s donation in 1995, SAAM still had 25 more years of Chicanx graphic arts production and a whole new generation of artists to recognize. The importance of an exhibition such as this, particularly at SAAM, is the institution’s claim that Chicanx art is American art and thus is the steward of this artistic practice. In supporting your vision for the exhibition, SAAM now has the largest museum collection of Chicanx graphics on the East Coast. Other major museum collections are in Texas, California, and Illinois. By taking on this task, SAAM sends a wider message to major arts institutions that Chicanx art is significant to telling the US story and is an integral part of art history.
Due to the pandemic, SAAM has compiled a wealth of digital resources to explore and experience ¡Printing the Revolution!, including a virtual tour, a five-part conversation series featuring artists and scholars, as well as the production of a major catalogue with essays by Ramos and Zapata, as well as contributions by another UT alumna Tatiana Reinoza (Art History MA, 2009; PhD, 2016), assistant professor of art history at the University of Notre Dame; and Terezita Romo, an art historian, curator and writer. Press from the LA Times and Artnews have unanimously praised the exhibition for "provid[ing] a needed reframing of Chicano graphics."
Once ¡Printing the Revolution! completes its run at SAAM, it will travel to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas and be on view from February 20 – May 8, 2022.