This collection offers a broad survey of prints and posters produced by Mexico’s foremost political printshop, the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP, Popular Graphic Arts Workshop). Mexico has a long history of printmaking in the service of social change, largely credited to the seminal work of Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) who was a printmaker and social critic during the Mexican Revolution. The TGP coalesced as an organization at the end of 1938 after the collapse of the Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (LEAR, Revolutionary Writers’ and Artists’ League) founded four years earlier. The Taller was a vibrant collective of established and emerging artists committed to the direct use of visual art in the service of social change. The Taller became a magnet in the progressive design community, and several U.S. artists (such as Elizabeth Catlett, Pablo O’Higgins, and Mariana Yampolsky) produced work there.
Their medium of choice was monochrome relief prints – linoleum prints and woodcuts. Only occasional multicolor images appear, as do screenprints, engravings, and lithographs. Prints were generally single sheet items, although some works are quite large for this medium (35 x 90 cm) and were designed to be pasted together into two-sheet posters. Artists in the TGP created work in a wide variety of formats, including posters, fine art prints, “volantes” (handbills, 34x23 centimeter prints on thin colored paper), portfolio editions, banners, “wall newspapers,” and book illustrations. Almost all the items in this collection fall into the first three categories. The subject matter includes land reform, progressive electoral candidates, anti-war and anti-imperialist movements, solidarity with foreign struggles, folklife, labor and trade unions, Mexican revolutionary history and heroes, and other progressive causes.
This collection numbers just under 1,000 distinct items and has been built through commercial vendor purchases since 1998 under the curatorial guidance of Walter Brem. The collection includes prints by numerous artists who worked with the Taller. Although the TGP still produces posters, this collection’s strength is material printed during the late 1930s through the early 1960s. The approximate numbers of prints held by some of the included artists are: Alberto Beltrán (61), Angel Bracho (59), Arturo García Bustos (16), Elizabeth Catlett (7), Adolfo Mexiac (30), Pablo O’Higgins (11), Francisco Luna (29), Leopoldo Méndez (38), Francisco Mora (51), Leopoldo Morales Praxedis (14), Adolfo Quinteros (22), Diego Rivera (21), Mariana Yampolsky (23), and Alfredo Zalce (15). Items are housed in flat files, and fragile prints have been encapsulated. A detailed item list has been developed as a precursor to item-level cataloging.
The preeminent published source on the TGP is Helga Prignitz’s El Taller de Gráfica Popular en México 1937-1977 (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, 1992, UC Berkeley library NE544.6.T34 P754), but material in English is hard to come by. Of note are two excellent recent unpublished doctoral dissertations – Alison McClean’s “El Taller de Grafica Popular: Printmaking and Politics in Mexico and Beyond, from the Popular Front to the Cuban Revolution” (University of Essex, 2000, UC Berkeley library NE544.6.T34 M3 2000a \f\) and Susan Valerie Richards’ “Imaging the Political: El Taller de Grafica Popular in Mexico, 1937-1949” (University of New Mexico, 2001, UC Berkeley library NE544.6 T34 R5 2001a). Other significant collections in the West include the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research and Stanford Library’s Special Collections.
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last updated 4/27/2021