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El Taller de Gráfica Popular
by Michael T. Ricker
part 1 || part 2 || part 3 || part4 || Volantes populares

In the history of the world, it is uncommon for politics and art to become fully intertwined. Supporters of 'art for art's sake' consider art with a message, particularly a political one, to be base and superficial. And yet, great artists throughout history have used their work to make vital political and humanitarian statements. Artists such as Jacque Callot, William Hogarth, Honore Daumier, Francisco Goya, Kathë Kollwitz, Franz Masereel, Otto Dix and others created bodies of work in protest of the political conditions of their time.

Quite often, political movements use artistic methods to spread their message. This occurs in turbulent environments of great political uncertainty. One thinks of the Paris Commune and the Spanish Civil War, where the need was great to spread the message of desperate action to achieve difficult goals. These movements knew that, even if their efforts were not successful, their cause would be known throughout time by virtue of the relative permanence of the printed material created in support of their movements.

The work of Posada

Mexico in the early Twentieth century was a turbulent place. The progression from one dictatorship to another, with scant attention given to the individual and common rights of the populace, created an environment ripe for revolution. One particular difficulty in Mexico at this time was the need to communicate with a populace which was largely illiterate. Now considered as one of the great masters of Mexican art, José Guadalupe Posada S created a substantial body of work which combined image and text to entice the populace into wanting to know what was happening in their world. Perhaps a bit more like the National Enquirer than the Washington Post, Posada's work dealt with everything from politics and bullfights to murders and natural disasters. His work [above left] had an enticing quality that made those who could not read seek out someone who could, in order to get the full measure of information from the penny broadsides sold by Posada's publisher, Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, on the streets of Mexico City. Building on the foundation left by Posada after his death in 1913, several groups of artists united in various efforts to address the political situation in the Mexico of their time.


The first of these artist groups of note was Trienta y Trienta, or 30-30, so named after the repeating rifle which was so handy during the years of the revolution. Trienta y Trienta was founded in the late 20s and lasted several years. Artists such as Leopoldo Méndez, Francisco Diaz de León, Gabriel Fernandez Ledesma and Fernando Leal formed the core of this group. While giving attention to the politics of the day, it existed largely to promote the arts and art history of Mexico; substantially more bark than bite, while opening the door for political commentary.

continues ... see part 2 || part 3 || part 4

©2002 Michael T. Ricker