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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Mexican Art: Engravings of José Guadalupe Posada

Our new arts correspondent lives in Mexico: here she talks us through some wonderful inspiration from an exhibition at the Jose Guadalupe Posada Museum in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Written by Judy Elizabeth Wilson

quijote POSADA
Quijote, inspired by the story of Don Quijote de la Mancha .

The Mexican culture I’ve become accustomed to is a mix of electric pinks and bright rainbow colours… everywhere… so when I first saw an artesan print of the Quijote it really made an impression. Firstly because it’s black and white, refreshing in it’s simplicity. And then there’s the subject matter: skeletons, perceived by some as a taboo image. But it’s also amusing; a crazy faced skeleton riding a galloping skeleton horse, knocking little skeletons over as it goes. As an English citizen of Mexico I hadn´t come across many skeletons back home except on pirate flags, but here they are intergrated into the culture. The Day of the Dead ceremony on November 1st and 2nd each year features Posada´s lovely lady skeleton Catrina.

2. Catrina
Catrina

The Aztecs, Toltecs and Maya Cultures made skull racks to display their prowess and years later in New Spain the crown put the heads of rebels on cages in public plazas. Even today the drugs cartels leave heads lying in the streets. La Santa Muerte, or the Saint of Death, is a relatively new deity in this surreal culture and is venerated mainly amongst the lower classes of México City and many of the México US Border states, coincidently the most violent states today because of the drug wars.

José Guadalupe Posada was a master engraver and lithographisist born in Aguascalientes, Mexico in 1852. He lived in the beginning stages of massive media communication as we know it today. Telegraph, telephone, locomotive and mass print of magazines and newspapers were all introduced and intergrated into a society on the tip of a revolution. Many of Posada´s prints are visual documents of a dramatic epoch in Mexican History and his work reflects the social, political and cultural spirit of the day.

 El Chinchunchan
El Chinchunchan

La Cubanita
La Cubanita

Through his newspaper and magazine prints, posters, leaflets, advertising and books, he created a window into society. Posada, a Sensationalist, told the stories of the heroes and villians, the poor and the rich, devils and the innocents of the times.

El Purgatorio
El Purgatorio

Miserias Humanas
Miserias Humanas

Mundo Insólito
Mundo Insólito

He documented many events, natural catastrophies, strange phenomenon, magical happenings, crimes commited by all classes, scandals, legends and religion… stories of passion, glory, romance, misery, celebration and death. The kind of sensational stories that we still see today in tabloids and magazines.

Viva Mexico
Viva Mexico

The Virgin Guadalupe
The Virgin Guadalupe

He captured the real Mexico with prints of revolutionaries, the hard working landless men and their fight for freedom and victory in 1910 and the reaction to the assassination of their courageous leader, Emiliano Zapata.

Revolutionaries in Battle
Revolutionaries in Battle

Emiliano Zapata
Emiliano Zapata

Of all Posada´s prints the ones I find the most striking are those of the ‘calaveras’ (or skulls), which seem to be the opposite of his political, social and cultural work. They are impersonal, representing the reality of life for the majority of the population. Posada said, “democracy, so what, at the end of it all, blonde, brown, rich or poor, all people end up being a skeleton.” Although Posada´s work dealt with misfortunate situations of the time his sensationalist stance transforms them into something quite comical today. The skeletons, dancing, drinking, singing, playing – they have all kicked the bucket and yet they are still getting on with it just like the rest of us.

Gran Fandango y Francachela
Gran Fandango y Francachela.

The opening of the new and improved exhibition space of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s work was held this 27th September 2010 in Museo Posada, Aguascalientes, Mexico. One of the tasks of my team at Media Educativa was to create an animation from the artist’s first ever engraving, the Quijote and it was brilliant fun to make Posada´s images come to life. The opening ceremony was attended by rich country folk, the governor and the modernist painter and sculptor Jose Luis Cuevas, whose gorgeous prints are now on show in the temporary gallery. Everyone drank mezcal, the local cactus tipple, an apt drink to celebrate the legacy of Posada.

Genio de la Estampa
Genio de la Estampa

All images courtesy of Museo Posada, Aguascalientes, Mexico.

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