Murry DePillars was a Chicago artist prominent in the city’s Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and the artist organization AfriCobra. Enrique Chagoya is a California-based artist raised in Mexico City who addresses in both artwork and activism the cultural and political clash between the U.S. and Latin America and U.S. foreign policy. Though to different ends, both artists engage symbols from pop culture and advertisements, reversing, subverting, and ultimately transforming this imagery to address social and political issues. On March 16, 2021 Cait DiMartino, Block Museum Art History Fellow 2019-2020 and co-curator of the exhibition For One and All: Prints from The Block Collection, showcased two works by the artists from The Block collection, Untitled (Aunt Jemima Pancake and Waffle Mix) (c.1969) and utopiancannibal.org (2000). By comparing these works, she explored how these artists each use the medium of printmaking in a unique manner as a mechanism for social and political discourse.
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From the discussion
“So this presentation comes out of my work with Corinne Granof on the museum’s current exhibition, For One and All, prints from The Block collection, which we started to prepare for last year while I held a curatorial fellowship at the museum. Corinne and I spent the early part of our research mining objects in the permanent collection to get a sense of what The Block owns and just to really figure out how to bring such a broad and diverse collection of prints together into a cohesive exhibition. And one of the qualities that we considered particularly important for printmaking was this aspect of inherent reproducibility, making them a significant medium for disseminating ideas and especially political and social commentary to large audiences.
This quality makes prints a really important tool for activism and protest especially. And while we were looking through the collection, I was also really struck by how many prints incorporate references to popular culture or to elements of earlier works of art. And I noticed that this was often done as a form of satire or as a means to critique the original source. So, my discussion today serves as an opportunity to share two examples of this and to think through the capacity that prints have to communicate and to manipulate the subject matter of earlier art.”