José Guadalupe Posada is a prolific Mexican artist who created a plethora of ingenious cartoons and caricatures that became famous after his death in the 20th century.
He attained a broad audience through his calvaderas or skull etchings. They are seen throughout the Day of the Dead festivals in Latin American countries, and are recognized around the world.
Posada grew up in the Mexican state of Aquascalientes, and began as an apprentice to a graphic artist, who eventually introduced him to lithography. He then later went to Mexico City to work as an illustrator.
Those were hard times in Mexico, and Posada’s artwork often expressed that. In 1882, after becoming a political activist, his artwork began circulating in newspapers.
Fifty-four of Posada’s famous works are on display currently at the UTSA Main Gallery. These 19th and 20th century broadsheets are often quite gruesome and yet, tantalizing. This was a man who was truly one with his artwork, and his lithographs embody that. By putting a little bit of himself in each of his works, the audience gains a sense of what was happening at the time of its creation.
The titles of Posada’s art also grab the viewer’s attention. Both “Pormenores de la ûltima ejecución” (Details Of The Last Execution) and “La Destrucción del Mundo” (The End of the World) are fascinating works of art. “Pormenores de la Ultima Ejecución,” depicts in detail, the execution of Jesús Bruno Martinez, a man who was found guilty of a crime, yet proclaimed his innocence. “La destrucción del mundo,” is an enticing piece that shows a crowd in mayhem, as the sky opens up and unveils falling asteroids, raining meteors and a bolt of lightning dancing across the moonlit sky.
A couple more radical works of art in the collection on campus are,”Ejemplar y ciertisimo suceso” (Cautionary and Most Certain Event) and “La Calvera de Don Quijote” (Don Quijote’s Calavera).
“Ejemplar y Ciertisimo Suceso” shows a violent earthquake that occurred on Nov. 2, 1894. There were multiple crimes that preceded this earthquake, so people attributed the event to God’s wrath on the town. There are buildings collapsing and people falling down, but in the foreground of the image there is a man on his knees who has his hands raised, most likely towards God.
“La Calvera de Don Quijote,” displays Don Quijote, a famous Spanish folklore figure, trampling over minions while on his journey. In the text it goes on to compare Quijote’s journey to the events of the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire. What really makes this special is that it is a “Calavera,” or skeleton version.
Whether an art enthusiast or not, this exhibit is certainly something to check out. It’s free, right on campus, and it’s good way to break up a routine.
Located in the Art Building the exhibit will be on display until Feb. 26, 2012. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.