In September I worked on a series of three screen prints for a artist exchange project that I have been part of this year. The exchange has taken me across the United States, Guatemala and Colombia totaling five weeks of traveling with a group of 20 artist 14 of them from indigenous communities in from Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador. These trips were very inspiring and helped me gain a better understanding of the world we are living in, especially in the global south where there is a movement rising to change the neo-colonial relationship with the first world.
Now that the exchange has been completed all the artist have created new artwork that reflects their experiences, this artwork will be collected for a traveling exhibit that will open in June of 2009 in Bogota, Colombia at the Museo del Banco Nacional. It is very exciting to have this work travel in through out north and the south and reach so many
This is the artist statement for the triptych:
We Rise Up From The Earth
I first learned about the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor in 1996, which foretells the reunification of the Northern and Southern continents and will aid in healing the relationships between and within indigenous communities toward the goal of becoming whole again. I think that this process of healing is one that will take as long as it took for the sickness, that colonialism and imperialism left behind, to take hold and that there will be many meetings of indigenous people that will facilitate this healing.
In order to contribute toward the healing of indigenous peoples on these two continents we need to meet and dialogue about the realities we are experiencing and the histories we have inherited. Discussing these realities we begin to connect through the similarities of our realities as well as understanding the differences and, most importantly, learning and sharing the stories about the struggles in our communities.
These are the issues I explore in my art work in an attempt represent the realities of indigenous communities of these continents- Turtle Island. I am particularly interested in the parallel political struggles that exist across these two continents such as struggles for autonomy, land and natural resources. Through out these lands, indigenous peoples are fighting for the same outcomes while pushing up against common adversary forces such as land profiteers and proponents of neo-liberalism. Through this work I will contribute to the discourse that is being created by indigenous peoples which pushes against the idea that we no longer exist.
cool test print
printing the blue...
printing the sixth color on the third print...
almost the final color...
right before adding the temple in pink
It was important to show the people in the streets protesting...
mixing some ink
mixinig the blue and purple...
"Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) is a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a dual mission of personal transformation and community power. Creating an environment of understanding and confidentiality, MUA empowers and educates our members through mutual support and training to be leaders in their own lives and in the community. Working with diverse allies, MUA promotes unity and civic-political participation to achieve social justice."
We were honored to create this poster for the National Domestic Worker Congress by Mujeres Unidas y Activas, they were founding members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Their work here in the Bay area is very inspiring, It is a great to see women standing together to create better working conditions in their community. More inspiring is that people are standing together to make this organzing happen at a national level to create a Domestic Worker Bill of rights.
Domestic Workers Organize
Not into unions -- federal labor law prohibits domestic workers from forming unions -- but into the National Alliance of Domestic Workers. And the first thing they want is a "Domestic Worker Bill of Rights." (Washington Post)
This is a great article about Shepard Fairey's recent exhibition "Supply and Demand" at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh that was posted on the Just Seeds blog by Shaun Slifer.
[Full disclosure - the author of this article has been employed multiple times in the Education Department of the Andy Warhol Museum as recently as June 2009, teaching screen-printing to high school students.]
Last week, Shepard Fairey opened a massive retrospective exhibition at Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum. "Supply and Demand" drew a sold-out opening night crowd that watched Fairey DJ alongside Z-Trip while sporting a swank three-piece suit. In the months prior, Fairey and his team toured around Pittsburgh wheat-pasting his familiar designs on building facades both permitted and not, and across from the museum he installed a temporary mural over top of a pre-existing mural by a younger local artist. The silent, creeping presence of Fairey's designs around the city felt eerily similar to the lead-up for the G20 summit this past September, in which faceless PR firms delivered meaningless graphics touting business and lifestyle opportunities to cover dozens of vacant storefronts in downtown in an attempt to scrub the visual landscape. All of this new wallpaper gave an impending and queasy feeling to anyone paying attention: Pittsburgh, once again and without consent, would play host as a playground for the powerful.
Fairey is one of the most recognized designers in the U.S. today, and the litigation surrounding him and the image sourcing for his art is a circus of it's own. Most bizarrely this spring for Pittsburghers (and anyone else who noticed) local designer Larkin Werner was sent a "cease and desist" (later recinded) by Fairey's legal team over the use of the word "Obey" in conjunction with the homespun "Steelerbaby" kewpie doll for sale on the internet. That, as well as prior stumbles in image use and Fairey's latest snafu with the Associated Press, has highlighted some interesting points about Fairey's privilege as a celebrity and artistic image sourcing in general. Many have been quick to smirk at the perceived appropriateness of Fairey's work in a museum dedicated to Andy Warhol, himself a controversial, multi-disciplinary artist with a mind for business. In fact the museum has a history of bringing stimulating and provocative content to Pittsburgh with consistency and an acute sense of history and context. In the case of "Supply & Demand", however, the whole drumroll and presentation feels scripted and aloof.
On top of the absurd legal battles keeping Shepard Fairey's lawyers and critics busy, a wealth of debate about whether or not the artist's work is "fair use" or even "plagairism" has been steadily sprouting on blogs (like Justseeds') for some time. Often, the accusations fly from the keyboards of other artists, particularly printmakers who consider themselves more engaged in social justice work than Fairey appears to be. It's easy to come off as jealous and spiteful "haters", but as printmakers perhaps what we want most from Fairey as a "political" artist - and don't get - is an analysis of capitalism and its ills that aligns with our own. We want to look at his work, with it's alluring red and black imagery, apparently focused signifiers, and "underground" origins and find an ally in this struggle.
But we don't find that ally in Shepard Fairey. Instead we find a depoliticized and fairly macho entrepreneur, throwing history in our faces and proving to us that, quite frankly, it's easy as hell to make a nice profit off of the "look" of something. If anything smarts more than the annoying sting of Fairey's slick fashion line or the Fuji/Obey track bike, it might just be the sickening feeling of watching someone like Fairey produce color-coded images with little resonance, take handsome promo shots for Vogue Italy after pasting his work on a failed urban storefront, and revel in his street cred and controversy while museums that should know better pander to his status. What the rest of us get from "Supply and Demand" is nothing more than a slick package of redundant imagery, and the Warhol does a surprising disservice to its visitors by touting the work in this exhibit as politically relevant social critique. The best idea I suppose one could take away from "Supply & Demand" is one about how easily we can be sold image and identity, for at it's essence the exhibit is a retrospective of Fairey's "Obey" brand name.
It can't be said that I went to see the new show without prior bias, nor can I refrain from admitting that I appreciated the two cases of Fairey's oldest drawings and related creative ephemera. Yet, besides the usual critiques I might have had with Fairey's past work, I felt something else while walking around the museum, and perhaps a friend said it best: "It just feels like another Dude making work with beautiful women in it" - and, I would add, a short catalog of images of power. Something that doesn't get said about Fairey's work very often is that he easily typifies a tired "boy's club" mentality regarding art. Women, if they appear in his work at all, almost exclusively do so as beautiful faces and bodies. Guns, tanks, machines, fists and stern faces proliferate. It's a troubling feeling to be standing in an exhibit so obviously full of machismo, but the idea hadn't occurred to the curators: as the captioning paragraph to a large image entitled "Arab Woman" proclaims, "Fairey's commitment to challenge preconceived assumptions and stereotypes - in this instance about gender and culture - underlines his engagement with the most pressing issues of our time." Was I just missing something? In another room I found a celebration of men in music, including a wall of portraits of well known and successful musicians: Flava Flav and Chuck D, Slick Rick, Tupac Shakur along with Joe Strummer, Ian MacKaye and others. Debbie Harry appeared a token addition on one end, not far from a close-cropped shot of some apparently revolutionary panties. Perhaps what we're seeing here is just a selection of Fairey's own favorites, and the man is welcome to listen to, be inspired by, and illustrate whatever he likes. The impression it left, however, was of having visited the bedroom of an enamored teenage boy still coping with issues of sexuality and gender in his surroundings.
Contrary to the hype text on the walls of the Warhol, I'll offer that excitement about Fairey's show doesn't stem from an underlying genius to the current work or even audience expectations of something terribly new - and this is exactly where one can locate Fairey's working method. People love "Obey" like they love Bath and Body Works, Hot Topic, or American Eagle Outfitters. Walking into "Supply & Demand" is like walking into a store in the mall: the consistency is the reason for continued purchases and branded enthusiasm, and Fairey's work is a brand you can buy into with ease. I think in this light it's clear that Fairey is a master of business sense, a shrewd calculator possessing a design understanding which manages to appeal to a set of visceral cues that imply "revolution" as well as the sexiness of grafiti or street art. To this end, Fairey deftly removes dialog and context from his work, and the result is slick, ready-to-wear merchandise. Viewers of a portrait of a young Bobby Seale, captioned as "co-founder of the Black Panthers", don't even have to care who the Black Panther Party ever was, it just looks cool. The real power in Fairey's work, the power flexed not just on these museum walls but on walls all over Pittsburgh, lies in his ability to pander to deeply rooted consumer desires: many people want the t-shirt without the politics, the image without the struggle. Rather than analyze this tension, the Warhol cheerleads Fairey's work without pause, bringing into question whether curatorial motivations had more to do with the artist's celebrity than with anything his work might bring to the table.
I recently worked with Juan R. Fuentes on screen printed reproduction of one of his linoleum prints for the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. It was part of a portfolio to celebrate their 20th anniversary and was up for sale at their annual awards dinner, where Juan received the Art is a Hammer award. The print is of a woman who is working in the fields, tending to her crops, and in the background you see a rain of bombs falling. The linoleum was first published in 2001 and is one of many responses to the unjust wars that the United Stats has been waging in the Middle East.
Juan has been a longtime mentor of mine, and was the first to encourage me to pick up the squeegee and start printing and his art the ways he uses it to create a voice of resistance has always inspired me to do the same. It has always been an honor to be able to work with him on various projects and continue the printmaking tradition that he has been carrying on for over 30 years.
To see more of Juan's work check out his website here.
The latest in Self Help Graphics’ political print series is from activist printmaker and digital artist Jesus Barraza. Jesus is a co-founder and member of Taller Tupac Amaru, a print studio in Oakland, California that produces and distributes screen-printed political posters and fosters “resurgence in the screen-printing medium for social change.” He also works with fellow Taller Tupac Amaru artist Melanie Cervatnes on a project called Dignidad Rebelde, “a space for collaboration and artistc skill-sharing that is grounded in a Xicana worldview and fueled by their collective desire to support grassroots organizing for social justice.” Jesus brings the Xicana flare to Self Help’s political print series with “Las Flores,” a vibrant five-color portrait that reflects his mission for social justice. From his artist’s statement:
This piece is dedicated to all the people of Iran who have been protesting in the streets struggling for the self determination to decide the future of their own government and country. It is also important to put this struggle within a contemporary context where people in the global south are struggling to build a better world, one in which decisions are no longer made with only those who control capital in mind.
Final prints on rack.
Josue and Joe in progress.
Joe rockin' it.
Josue and Joe.
Joe and his paparazzi.
Jesus mixing colors.
Jesus mixes colors.
Josue checking a screen.
Self Help's ink cabinet.
Jesus with the SHG guys.
Josue and Joe.
Next post will be about fellow Taller Tupac Amaru artist Melanie Cervantes.