Jose Guadalupe Posada popularized the use of skeletons portrayed in his prints as if they were alive. That is, skeletons drinking, dancing, eating, working, and simply doing anything a person in full flesh would do. Skeletons became a way to represent the soul of the deceased, the person they once were, dressing the skeletons with particular outfits to embody the clergy, a politician, a shoe-shine boy, the neighbor making tortillas, or a group of drunken men in a cantina. Many contemporary folk artists draw on Posada’s inspirations to create crafts out of paper mache, wire, clay, etc.
This portfolio includes 20 printmakers from United States, Mexico, France, Canada and Spain. This suite of these prints were done by individuals with distinct experiences and cultural traditions that reflect diverse perspectives towards death. For example, there are serigraphs done by artists from Mexico living in Chicago and in Seville, Spain; a linocut done by a Japanese artist living in Toronto, Canada; linocut print by an English artist living in Paris; and other prints done by artists living in their respective or adopted countries.
This unique collaboration offers a window of opportunity to look into the diverse perceptions of death artists bring to this graphic project. Through these prints some artists interpret death in a spiritual and a way of recalling the deceased relatives with the recreation of a traditional altar/ofrenda. In other cases, artists make use of playful skeletons, in the Posada style, to pock fun at life, sexual encounters, to criticize political leaders and drunkenness. Yet others make use of more ritual-like and profound cultural symbols to allude to the essence; the natural cycle of life and death.
René Arceo, Printmaker / Project, Director Arceo Press, Chicago