The print collective Instituto Gráfico de Chicago was born out of a desire to highlight how latinx printmakers are making relevant art and how the influence of names like José Guadalupe Posada and Taller de Gráfica Popular still play an important role in their projects.
The Instituto Gráfico de Chicago began with a sense of urgency to create prints as a response to the fact that at various printing events and exhibitions Latinx presence was nowhere to be seen. We began with a list of corridos (Mexican Songs) taped to a wall which evolved to a love of carving and printing. Our influences came from artists such as Jose Guadalupe Posada, Taller de Gráfica Popular, Rufino Tamayo, Elizabeth Catlett, and Chicago based printer Carlos Cortez. We knew that all of these individuals had contributed to the art of printmaking, not only in Mexico but also, without a doubt, in the United States. Many of them were being used as inspiration for ongoing print movements, but Latinx artists were not being invited, included, promoted, or celebrated.
This discussion culminated by inviting people to join us on a venture to create spaces for gathering, carving blocks, printing, and to promote Latinx printmaking in the city of Chicago. So we came up with the Instituto Gráfico de Chicago, an art collective that dedicates its work to maintain the critical activist tradition of Latino printmaking, which seeks to unite communities of struggle around the world. Finally, we had gained a name, logo and a vision.
We firmly believe art is an integral part of public life, so we began by celebrating the work of Taller de Gráfica Popular (The People's Print Workshop) and how they use art as a vehicle to inform communities on ongoing social issues. We looked at Carlos Cortez, his love for his community, and how he has created opportunities for all to acquire affordable critical art while being educated via this art form. Our true mission is not only to create prints, but also to connect with printmakers, to educate those in touch with the prints, and to facilitate this democratic art form.
Instituto Gráfico de Chicago is composed of nine artists that are community organizers, educators, and studio artists in Chicago. Living in working class communities, we see first hand the problems that plague our neighborhoods. Building relations with other artists has allowed us to grow relationships and has given us the opportunity to build, disseminate, and exchange print portfolios. We have had the pleasure of creating portfolios with self-selected themes and exchanged our work with artists from Chicago, California, Texas, and various parts of Mexico like Baja California Sur, Mexico City, Morelos, and Oaxaca. From the creation of these portfolios, we have implemented workshops inviting our communities and inspiring new generations to seek the graphic arts, specifically printmaking, as a tool for social change.
Grabadolandia is born!
We created the festival called Grabadolandia that hosts print houses and invites the general community to learn and purchase prints at an affordable price. We’ve had some print portfolios before, but we didn’t stop with this as a form to connect with our Latinx audience. That’s why with Grabadolandia we focus on educating and connecting our community with various print houses as we encourage printers to sell their work.
In the beginning, the festival was one day long and we were lucky enough to find support from the National Museum of Mexican Art, a nationally recognized institution that supports local and international artists by allowing us to use their space for this printmaking festival. Now, we have extended Grabadolandia from one day to a three day event in Pilsen, a working class neighborhood known for its support of the arts.
We continue collaborating with artists from across the US and Mexico. For example, we’ve had the pleasure to invite artists from Mexico to our printmaking festival as vendors and workshop facilitators. Also, we’ve been honored to collaborate with artists like Esther Hernandez, Oscar Moya, Rene Arceo, and Shinzaburo Takeda, the Japanese master printmaker and educator from Oaxaca. We understand and recognize the power of education through art and these artists are living examples of why printmaking is such an important art form with its foundation in grassroots art movements.
Instituto Gráfico de Chicago will continue to promote and maintain the tradition of printmaking in Latin America as we plan future endeavors and hope to bring greater awareness of the work of Latinx artists.
The members of Instituto Gráfico de Chicago are of Antonio Pazaran, Ricardo X. Serment, Jose Luis Gutierrez, Carlos Baberena, Vanessa Sanchez, Eric J. Garcia, Salvador Jiménez-Flores, Chema Skandal!, Eric Gasca, Amanda Cortes, Laura Nussbaum-Barberena, and Marcela Andrade.
Photos: Mario Hernández, @instituto_grafico_chicago
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