One of Mexico’s most celebrated artists, José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) was a printmaker and tabloid illustrator who, over his forty-year career, created as many as 20,000 images. His satirical works, featuring calaveras (skeletons), lampooned politicians, called out social injustices, skewered the European pretenses of Mexico’s middle and upper classes, and captured the early tumult of the Mexican revolution. He was never recognized as a fine artist during his life, but today his artistic legacy is secure. This is due, in no small part, to posthumous interest by other artists—among them the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, and French surrealist André Breton. Rivera, a devout communist, seemed to delight in this play between widespread impact and lack of recognition, declaring Posada’s art, “so great that perhaps one day his name will be forgotten!”
NOTE: The event below, Arts Alive 25, was held on September 8, 2023.
Exhibited at St. John’s College, a school known for a rigorous culture of philosophic inquiry, Posada’s art begs consideration of at least two persistent questions.
The first is, “Do we have to be serious to be taken seriously?” Any library of Great Books is full of comedy and satire, from Aristophanes’ The Clouds to Voltaire’s Candide and beyond, but whether artistic satire is an effective strategy in producing change remains up for debate. Factoring in questions of who gets to be a funny, and the role of power and bigotry complicates the discussion.
The second is, “What are the bounds of art?” Only in death did Posada’s work, produced using mechanical means and often unsigned, begin to be viewed as art. When and how do objects acquire artistic status? How and why do we make such determinations? Who is protected and what is lost?
Opening Day Schedule
“The Legacy of Posada: From the Revolution to Today”
With artist and educator Pablo Helguera, former director of Adult and Academic Programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Free and open to the public.
The exhibition opens to the public*
Bring a blanket and a meal and have a picnic on the lawn
(we’ll provide fresh lemonade and dessert)
Music: Mexican Corridos
Sung by Pablo Helguera
*In the spirit of the artist’s work, there will be no separate private members/patrons reception.