The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics

Chicanx artists have forged a remarkable history of printmaking grounded in social justice. Explore this innovative and vibrant tradition through works in SAAM's collection.

By Smithsonian American Art Museum

RIFA, from Méchicano 1977 Calendario (1976) by Leonard CastellanosSmithsonian American Art Museum

Artworks from the exhibition, ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now, all part of SAAM's collection, revise notions of Chicanx identity, spur political activism and educate viewers in new understandings of U.S. and international history.

Hasta La Victoria Siempre (1975) by Luis C. GonzálezSmithsonian American Art Museum

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Chicano Movement announced a new political and cultural consciousness among people of Mexican descent in the United States.

Chicano activist artists created vivid, eye-catching posters with domestic and global politics in mind.

They channeled social activism in support of farm workers’ rights, civil rights, labor equity, anti-war, and, later, feminist and LGBTQ+ movements into assertive aesthetic statements in the graphic arts.

Mujer de Mucha Enagua, PA' TI XICANA (1999) by Yreina D. CervántezSmithsonian American Art Museum


By the 1970s, self-identified Chicana artists challenged the overwhelming representation of men in defining the Movement.

Artists such as Ester Hernandez, Yolanda López, and Yreina D. Cervántez sought to challenge ways of conceiving community, aesthetics, and politics that were patriarchal and silenced LGBTQ voices.

Often in the face of hostility, they ushered in new imagery and conceptual frameworks that centered on women’s lives, feminist changemakers, spirituality, and paved the way for future examinations of identity, including Indigeneity.

Migration is Beautiful (2018) by Favianna RodriguezSmithsonian American Art Museum

Exploring the mentor-mentee relationships that have sustained the field is an illuminating look into the Chicanx artistic community. There is a through-line of direct relationships leading from the founders of the movement to printmakers who are active today.

Chicanx artists and institutions welcomed, nurtured, and supported each other, as well as other cross-cultural collaborators. The artworks map a dense matrix of relationships that reveal the importance of intergenerational support structures and far-reaching networks.

El Animo es Primero (Encouragement Is First) (2018) by Juan de Dios MoraSmithsonian American Art Museum

The broad network that resulted includes Latinx artists with links to other Latin American nations, white allies, card-carrying Chicano activists, or recent Mexican immigrants who may or may not identify as Chicanx.

Included in this broad category of Chicanx graphics are works by more recent Mexican immigrants such as Juan de Dios Mora, whose prints delve into the contemporary nuances of the transnational border space that is South Texas.

Day Dreaming/Soñando despierta, from the portfolio Manifestaciones,, Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, Scherezade García, 2010, From the collection of: Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Intrépido, from the portfolio Manifestaciones, Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, Pepe Coronado, 2010, From the collection of: Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Vale John, from the portfolio Manifestaciones, Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, Carlos Almonte, 2010, From the collection of: Smithsonian American Art Museum
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The relationships expand throughout the nation, including in Midwest and on the East Coast. Dominican American artist Pepe Coronado's transformative experience at the Serie Project, a print residency established by the late Chicano artist Sam Coronado in Austin, Texas, led him to found the collective, the Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, in New York.

Justice for Our Lives (2014-2020) by Oree OriginolSmithsonian American Art Museum

The legacy of Chicanx graphics establishes how interracial and cross-cultural solidarity was and remains an important element of Chicanx print networks.

"Justice for Our Lives" is an online and public social justice artwork. Using original photographs, artist Oree Originol creates black-and-white digital portraits of men, women, and children killed during altercations with law enforcement.

Installation of "Justice for Our Lives" (2020) by Oree OriginolSmithsonian American Art Museum

The artist makes each portrait available for download for community members to use. He also creates dynamic, large-scale installations, placing them in public spaces to draw the attention of passersby.

I Am UndocuQueer-Reyna W. (2012) by Julio SalgadoSmithsonian American Art Museum

Like Originol's prints, the digital works of Julio Salgado, a Dreamer who received legal status through the federal immigration policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), show the innovative practices of today’s Chicanx printmakers that go beyond paper.

"Sun Mad" and "Sun Raid" (1982; 2008) by Ester HernandezSmithsonian American Art Museum

The long legacy of the activism by Chicanx graphics artists can be seen in the iconic work of Ester Hernandez, who explores the social justice issues facing the community in 1982 and that persist almost 30 years later.

In her 1982 print, "Sun Mad," Hernandez reconfigures the cheerful branding of the Sun-Maid raisin company into a grim warning, a response to her family’s exposure to polluted water and pesticides in California’s San Joaquin Valley.


Twenty-six years later, she reimagines her classic poster as a condemnation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She outfits the calavera (skeleton) with an ICE wrist monitor and a huipil, a traditional indigenous garment.

Boycott Grapes, Support the United Farm Workers Union (1973) by Xavier ViramontesSmithsonian American Art Museum

The powerful socially-minded artistic legacy forged by activist Chicano artists working in the Movement and passed through Chicanx mentorship networks, remains visible in the art of printmakers working today.

View a selection of iconic and innovative Chicanx graphics from "Printing the Revolution."

La Curandera (1974) by Carmen Lomas GarzaSmithsonian American Art Museum

Frida Kahlo (September), from Galería de la Raza 1975 Calendario (1975) by Rupert GarcíaSmithsonian American Art Museum

Undocumented (1980) by Malaquias MontoyaSmithsonian American Art Museum

Messages to the Public: Pesticides! (1989) by Barbara CarrascoSmithsonian American Art Museum

Quiero Mis Queerce (2020) by Julio SalgadoSmithsonian American Art Museum

Bee Pile (2010) by Sonia RomeroSmithsonian American Art Museum

Between the Leopard and the Jaguar (2019) by Melanie Cervantes, Dignidad RebeldeSmithsonian American Art Museum

Who's the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim? (1981) by Yolanda LópezSmithsonian American Art Museum

El Coyote (2010) by Michael MenchacaSmithsonian American Art Museum

¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now will soon be making its first stop on a national tour. For more information, please visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Changemakers Portraits from "Printing the Revolution" (2020) by VariousSmithsonian American Art Museum

¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now presents, for the first time, historical civil rights-era prints by Chicano artists alongside works by graphic artists working from the 1980s to today. It was on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum from November 20 - November 22, 2020 and May 14, 2021 - August 8, 2021. For more information on the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue, please visit: https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/chicano-graphics

This exhibition is organized by E. Carmen Ramos, former curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, with Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant for Latinx art.

Credits: Story

¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from The Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, Michael Abrams and Sandra Stewart, The Honorable Aida Alvarez, Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins, Ford Foundation, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, HP, William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund, Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation, Lannan Foundation, and Henry R. Muñoz, III and Kyle Ferari-Muñoz.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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