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Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia (February 13 – May 18, 2008)
Mickey Mouse, Aztec gods, and Superman among the icons featured in the first comprehensive exhibition of the lively satirical work by Mexican-born, San Francisco-based artist.
Berkeley, CA, January 15, 2008 — (Click for a downloadable PDF version of this press release.) The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to announce a major, twenty-five-year survey of work by Enrique Chagoya. The exhibition features more than seventy works—paintings, charcoal and pastel drawings, prints, and mixed-media codices (accordion-folded books)—that intermingle icons and cultural references spanning hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia opens at BAM/PFA on February 13 and runs through May 18, 2008.
Chagoya’s subject matter reflects his own personal history and interests: Mexico’s complex past, international politics, various religions, art history, and popular culture. He draws on all of these sources, combining cultural symbols to create scenes of hybrid worlds and scathing—and often humorous—political and social satire. According to the artist, “Humankind is in constant war with itself, perfectly capable of total destruction. This is the raw material for my art.”
A consistent focus of Chagoya’s work is the manner in which more powerful nations have dominated others and availed themselves of resources, both natural and cultural. For centuries, Western artists have used Indigenous and folk art as a source for their work: for example, Pablo Picasso’s use of African tribal masks in his Cubist paintings, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s incorporation of Mayan architectural forms and motifs in his designs. Chagoya inverts this practice in a process he calls “reverse anthropology,” placing icons from the dominant American culture within Indigenous or colonial settings, so that Superman faces off with an Aztec god, or cannibals run amok in Monet’s gardens at Giverny. Chagoya has described this world of intermingled influences as a place where “all cultures meet and mix in the richest ways, creating the most fertile ground for the arts ever imagined.”
Chagoya also borrows from the canon of Western art, adapting works by Francisco Goya and Philip Guston (satirizing, respectively, Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the Nixon administration) to contemporary political contexts (the Reagan and current administrations). He also often utilizes traditional Mexican approaches to art making; his paintings on aluminum directly refer to the folk art tradition of the ex-voto or retablo, while his paintings on amate—fig bark—allude to the ancient Aztec and Mayan codex books. Drawing on the rich tradition of Mexican political prints, particularly José Guadalupe Posada, Chagoya’s intelligent and witty narratives send up and, at times, celebrate the complicated cultural and psychological consequences of more than 500 years of contact and influence between worlds.
Born in Mexico City in 1953, Chagoya regularly visited the museums of the capital city and Teotihuacán as a child. These cultural institutions provided him with his first exposure to pre-Columbian culture. He moved to the United States in 1979 and in 1984 he enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he created the powerful work that begins this mid-career survey exhibition. In 1986 he completed an MA, and in 1987 an MFA, at the University of California, Berkeley. Chagoya has taught printmaking at Stanford University since 1995. His work is included in the collections of many major museums, including the Library of Congress Print Collection and the National Museum of American Art, Washington DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico; Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; The Art Institute of Chicago; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia is organized by Patricia Hickson, Des Moines Art Center curator and manager of its satellite gallery, the Des Moines Art Center Downtown. After its presentation at BAM/PFA, the exhibition will travel to the Palm Springs Art Museum (September 27 – December 28, 2008).
Sunday, February 17, 3:00 p.m.
In an illustrated talk about the vast array of art-historical precedents, historical events, political figures, and pop-culture icons that appear in his work, Enrique Chagoya will share the motives, methods, and inspirations that inform twenty-five years of art making.
Borderlandia in Mind / La frontera en la mente
Sunday, March 16, 3 p.m.
More than a geopolitical line dividing Mexico and the United States, the border is also a condition, a state of mind, “a world of hybrids and collisions,” in Enrique Chagoya’s words. Contributing perspectives from literature, ethnic studies, and visual culture, UC Berkeley scholars and other practitioners consider a variety of concepts and meanings of the border along with Chagoya.
Author and Artist: Reading and Discussion
Victor Martinez and Enrique Chagoya
Sunday, April 13, 2 p.m.
Galleries 2 and 3
Author Victor Martinez and artist Enrique Chagoya read, look, and converse in the galleries, exploring common themes and motivations across their respective media—the written word and visual art.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 100-page, full-color, bilingual—English and Spanish—catalogue spanning Chagoya’s career and including essays by Patricia Hickson, Daniela Pérez, and Robert Storr; a catalogue of works in the exhibition; an artist’s chronology; and selected exhibition history. The catalogue will be available at the Museum Store http://bampfa.berkeley.edu/store/.
Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia is organized by the Des Moines Art Center. The exhibition is sponsored by the Lannan Foundation and Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc.; additional support is provided by The Jacqueline & Myron Blank Exhibition Fund. Support for the catalog has been provided by George Adams Gallery, Gallery Paule Anglim, and Stanford University. This exhibition is curated by Patricia Hickson, Des Moines Art Center curator and downtown gallery manager. The presentation at BAM/PFA is coordinated by Lucinda Barnes, chief curator and director of programs and collections.
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Packard Humanities Institute, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, the Christensen Fund, and other private foundations and corporations, and our individual donors and members. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.
About UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. BAM/PFA is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, presenting fifteen art exhibitions and five hundred film programs each year. The museum’s collection of more than 14,000 works includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
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General admission is $8; admission for seniors, disabled persons, non-UC Berkeley students, and young adults (13 – 17) is $5; admission for BAM/PFA members, UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty, and children under 12 is free; admission for group tours is $3 per person (to arrange a group tour, call (510) 642-5188). Admission is free on the first Thursday of each month.
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