With the support of Jordan Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, the Pendleton Center for the Arts has carved out a reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to mounting major exhibitions in its East Oregonian Gallery.
After four previous exhibits over the last five years that featured such art-world heavy hitters as Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois, Ellsworth Kelly, and Kara Walker, the center is getting ready to open perhaps its most ambitious showing – a solo exhibition of work by the acclaimed Mexican artist Enrique Chagoya. The exhibit opens on Friday, Aug. 5 and runs through Oct. 6. An opening reception on Friday, Aug. 5 from 5:30-7 p.m. is free and open to the public.
Enrique Chagoya is both an artist and a satirist. Born and raised in Mexico City, he studied political economics at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in the 1960s, and in the 1970s he moved to California to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. He received both his MA and MFA at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a full Professor at Stanford University’s department of Art and Art History and his work can be found in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco among others.
Chagoya uses familiar pop icons to create deceptively friendly points of entry for the discussion of complex issues. Because he is rooted in both American culture and Mexican culture, he’s able to move back and forth between the two, which informs his commentary on everything from history to current events. His work juxtaposes secular, popular, and religious symbols in order to address the ongoing cultural clash between the United States, Latin America and the rest of the world. He borrows from other artists, Marvel comics, prints by the European “Old Masters”, and other sources, removes images from their original context, then re-imagines them in combinations and juxtapositions that reveal absurdity, irony, and humor. His work is said to have the subtle and sophisticated ability to make people laugh and think at the same time.
Chagoya refers to drawing and printmaking as very humble mediums; he notes that they make him feel free. He’s made 100s of drawings and prints over the past 30 years, and began working in the book form in 1992, which was also the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s trip to the “New World.” Many of the works in the Pendleton exhibit are printed books in the style of the pre-Columbian Codex. Before colonization, Indigenous people throughout what is now Mexico and Central and South America created painted books that recorded history, science, land tenure, tribute, and sacred rituals using amate, a paper-like material, or prepared animal skins that were accordion-folded. Today only a handful of the thousands of books that existed before the Spanish conquest still exist. Some of the Chagoya books in the Pendleton exhibit stretch out to almost eight feet long when displayed.
The Pendleton Center for the Arts will have a series of demonstrations and hands-on workshops for youth and adults while the exhibit is on view. Guests will have opportunities to experience silk-screen and relief printing, make their own accordion books, and learn to make Amate. Dates and times will be posted at PendletonArts.org on Aug. 1, and all activities will be provided free.