José Guadalupe Posada's engravings adorned everything from National Enquirer-style stories of monsters and grisly crimes to devout religious pamphlets. Today, artist Jerry Vigil creates three-dimensional wood carvings that translate Posada's style for a modern age, just as the Mexican engraver translated the day's news into unforgettable illustrations.
The two artists merge in Posada's Broadsheets: Of Love And Betrayal & Posada Inspired, which opened last Friday at Auraria's Emmanuel Gallery.
"This is sort of a ten-year retrospective for me," said Vigil at the opening of the exhibit, which includes Vigil's sculptures of Posada-esque skeletons, along with wooden masks and a 2-D display of Posada's guitar player in traditional papel picado.
Posada "began his art during a time in Mexico where there was a lot of upheaval, a lot of social strata," Vigil continued. "And he represents, at least to me, the everyday man's artist. And he created these broadsheets to entertain, enlighten and educate the masses."
Added Emmanuel Gallery director Shannon K. Corrigan, "A lot of his audience was illiterate, so he had to be able to translate specifically and boil it down to what the article was about."
Posada's most famous motif is the skeleton, the calavera, which the artist used as a winking symbol of death and life, even in the context of these sensational proto-tabloids. "It's part of the storytelling," explained Vigil. "The way he animated them, the way he gave them life, the way he gave them a reason to exist and then tell a story with them, was very profound."
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