“The show is really about people and communities working together to both protest the current injustices and to dream of a better future,” explained Greg Deddo, the gallery manager for the “Art of Protest/Art of Dreams: Contemporary Printmaking in Oaxaca and Chicago” exhibit is in the art gallery on the first floor of Adams Hall.
As part of the show this past Friday afternoon, two artists from the Instituto Gráfico de Chicago shared stories about how they came to be involved in the long-established tradition of printmaking.
This artist talk was part of the opening reception for the exhibition, which runs from Oct. 29 through Dec. 20. Sponsored by the Wheaton College art department, the exhibition explores the work of over 30 artists from Oaxaca, Mexico and Chicago. The prints showcase the intersection of identity within the realms of culture, gender, religion, tradition and modern life.
Deddo told the Record that the impetus for the exhibition began after Professor Cherith Lundin researched printmaking practices on-site in Mexico.
“There is an incredible history of print media in Mexico, and Oaxaca in particular, has become a world-renowned center for printmaking in the past decade,” Deddo said.
Lundin returned to Wheaton with a desire to bring print media and printmaking to campus. Deddo said, “The show was really about listening, learning and receiving … We hope that the show is an opportunity for students and members of Wheaton to see the potential of art as a uniting force.”
True to their vision, the show also united departments across Wheaton’s campus. Throughout the semester, the Spanish department has sponsored viewing parties for Mexican films to accompany the exhibit, and has contributed to the recent Artist Series performance by the Mariachi Herencia de Mexico which is comprised of young students from Chicago’s Hispanic barrios.
The two visiting artists from Instituto Gráfico de Chicago (IGC), Ricardo Serment and Carlos Barberena, were greatly inspired by past Latin American printmakers, particularly Jose Guadalupe Posada who is considered a pioneer. Posada worked during the 19th and 20th century as a political printer and engraver during a turbulent time in Mexico. Serment and Barberena find inspiration in his satirical pieces because the work comments on the country’s political and social atmospheres in the hopes of provoking his audience to engage through art.
In response to critics who believe that technological innovation is leading to a decline in traditional art forms like printmaking, Serment suggests joining his workshop in Chicago. This event, “Grabadolandia,” takes place Nov. 16- 18 and brings together hundreds of neighborhood kids to collaborate and participate in making prints.
According to the IGC website, their mission is to “use our art to inform and generate community discourse about urgent social issues. We believe that art is not separate from life.” Because the IGC emphasizes community engagement, Wheaton students and faculty had the opportunity last Friday to join the artists in learning about traditional printmaking through a hands-on demonstration in Lower Beamer.
Artists Edith Chávez and Ivan Bautista from Burro Press, whose work is prominently featured in the exhibition, will visit Wheaton College next week to discuss their work and the lively art community in Oaxaca. “The exhibition,” Lundin said, “traces a link between protest and dreams, highlighting ways in which art can draw people together, invite dialogue and work towards justice.”
During a time of intensely polarized political strife and divisive conversations perhaps printmaking can be a source of empowering unity and hope.