At a glance

Special Collections & University Archives

José Guadalupe Posada and the Taller de Gráfica Popular: Mexican Popular Prints

Image at top left: Leopoldo Méndez, Concierto sinfónico de
calaveras (Symphonic Concert of Skeletons), 1943.
Woodcut engraving, 7 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Edition: 76/100.
 
The Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, is pleased to announce the exhibition José Guadalupe Posada and the Taller de Gráfica Popular: Mexican Popular Prints. This show celebrates the work of two Mexican graphic art giants: Posada (1852-1913), perhaps best known for his calaveras (skeletal caricatures) that appear during the día de los muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations beginning each year on November 1, and artists of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP, Workshop for Popular Graphic Art), which formed in 1937. With an emphasis on documenting Posada's influence on younger generations of artists working in post-Revolutionary Mexico, the exhibition will feature prints, broadsheets, posters, photographs, printing blocks, and rare illustrated books. José Guadalupe Posada and the Taller de Gráfica Popular: Mexican Popular Prints will be on view at Stanford University's Cecil H. Green Library, Peterson Gallery, second floor of the Bing Wing from November 1, 2002 through March 15, 2003. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Born in the state of Aguascalientes, Mexico, Posada demonstrated an early talent for drawing, taught lithography, and made a living as an illustrator of magazines, books, and commercial products. In 1888 he moved to Mexico City to join the printing shop of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo. It is there that Posada produced thousands of illustrations for popular broadsheets, some dedicated to sensationalistic themes ranging from heinous murders to natural and man-made disasters, and others to daily life in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Posada's imagery was aimed at the urban working classes, shedding light on the struggles of the underdog and the downtrodden while exposing the habits of Mexico's middle and upper class members to his sharp satirical wit. Posada created the bulk of these broadsheets under the regime of the Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz, keeping his satire in check to minimize the risk censorship or imprisonment.

Posada's impact on the work of the TGP will be highlighted in the exhibition. Several TGP artists acknowledged Posada as having a strong influence on their work, and were clearly inspired by his ability to reach the masses through the medium of printmaking and his unique, dramatic style of representing both extraordinary and ordinary elements of everyday life in Mexico.

Founded in 1937 by Leopoldo Méndez and other members of a dissolved artists' collective, the TGP used the graphic arts as a means of educating and raising the social and political consciousness of the largely uneducated rural working classes. Artists of the TGP were political activists bound by a common allegiance to the social justice and agrarian reform goals of the Mexican Revolution. TGP artists produced hundreds of prints, posters, handouts, and leaflets representing a myriad of political causes. Included in the exhibition are striking images focused on denouncing fascism, imperialism, and the oppression of the peasant classes, and on promoting workers rights, literacy campaigns, and oil expropriation.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Stanford University Libraries published an illustrated exhibition catalogue. Designed and printed letterpress in a hand-bound edition of 300 copies at the studio of Peter Koch Printers in Berkeley, California, the catalogue includes a foreword by Roberto Trujillo, Head of Special Collections, and a brief essay by exhibition curators D. Vanessa Kam and Adán Griego, a list of Stanford's Posada and TGP holdings, and finely reproduced images of a selection of Posada's broadsheets, chapbook illustrations, and calaveras, and TGP's posters and prints. The catalogue José Guadalupe Posada and the Taller de Gráfica Popular: Mexican Popular Prints is available for purchase at the price of $20 plus shipping (tax included). To obtain copies, please visit the Special Collections publications web site or via email at speccollpubs@stanford.edu