Jose Guadalupe Posada: The Iconic Printmaker and his Legacy in Popular Culture runs now through May 15 at the Fullerton Museum Center.
As a father of political satire, Jose Guadalupe Posada found a unique way to criticize the corrupt politicians and elite of 19th century Mexico: printing criticism on cartoon skulls or Calaveras. Unfortunately, criticizing politicians was considered off-limits. Little recourse was possible as it seemed petty to retaliate against an artist who made simple cartoons. And with that, a legacy of political cartoons was born.
Posada, a lithographer, used wood engravings to make relief printings, some of which are now on display at the Fullerton Museum Center. In addition, works by artists such as Lalo Alcaraz, Gina Davidson and the Kalli Art Collective are also on display. All meant to complement and comment on Posada’s legacy.
Posada created more than 20,000 works of art in his lifetime. All are done in black ink, except for four printings. Fortunately, these four are part of the exhibition.
“He has left a lasting legacy not just in the Chicano, Mexican community but his work has been used on The Grateful Dead albums,” said Elvia Susana Rubalcava, executive director of the Fullerton Museum Center. “His imagery of Calaveras for the Day of the Dead are still very present in our culture.”
A wide range of Posada’s lithographs are featured, touching on topics of political satire, religious figures, and social commentary. Much of the work had been printed in newspapers at the time, as well as chapbooks, small books showcasing popular songs. The original plates he created and used to print are also on display.
Works by other artists feature Calaveras, tributes to Posada, or political commentaries, such as the work of Lalo Alcaraz, who reflects on the pandemic and the January 6 United States capitol attack. Celeste de Luna’s large art mimics a lithographic style. A movie theater in the museum plays a video on Posada, with other artwork filling the theater.
“One of the things that was devastating to me to learn is that Posada died a pauper. He died buried in an unmarked grave. He had not a penny to his name, even though he was such a culture bearer for Mexico,” said Consuelo G. Flores, curator of the exhibition. Posada died in 1913. Flores said an ending for a man with such a legacy should give us cause to reflect.
The museum is open Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 12-4 p.m., and Thursdays, 12-8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children five and over, and free for children under 5. Members get free admission. Annual membership starts at $30 for students.