Monday, October 31, 2011

Being Heard

October Occupied

The month of October was the beginning of Sacramento’s emergence into the Occupy Wall Street movement. The interest in General Assembly and protest for economic change has gathered momentum on an international level spearheaded through multiple media platforms, and notwithstanding, the poster print continues to be an effective format. Paul Imagine is a local, silkscreen poster-artist that exemplifies the efficacy of this tradition.

Paul Imagine, Occupy, silkscreen, 2011
Imagine is best known for his rock poster art that he produces in limited silkscreen editions and posts throughout central hubs in Sacramento. His work has become iconographic in Sacramento’s urban grid and a collector’s item for the fortunate local that stumbles upon the fine prints as handbills. Most recently, Imagine has created a striking image as a call out to citizens to join the Occupy movement. In his signature style, Imagine rendered an anonymous figure to stand in for the labor force that is needed to dismantle the current economic structure. The design includes the movement’s unifying claim: “We are the 99%, we are the people.” The effectiveness of Imagine’s art continues to garner admiration and respect for its accessibility and consistency. He leaves them as free information and artwork for an engaged public. Working as a one-man production, Imagine’s public art expresses how individual contribution can assist in a collective effort.

Voice for the Voiceless

Malaquias Montoya, #2 Undocumented,
silkscreen, 1981
The exhibition Voice for the Voiceless by Malaquias Montoya is currently on view at the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento. The art of Montoya is one of social awareness that aims to give voice to those who are marginalized and advocates for social change. As one of the leading artists of the Chicano Art movement in Northern California during the 60s, Montoya presents visual expressions of humanity’s strengths and struggles through a comprehensive display of serigraphs, which includes early prints that continue to be relevant in our complex reality of the twenty-first century.

The main gallery displays predominantly the continued concerns of the Mexican migrant community in the United States. The revolving discussions on immigration in past and current presidential campaigning arenas make Montoya’s prints evermore urgent. The depictions of magueyes, barbed wires, agricultural fields, and immigrant workers are all interwoven into the macro narrative of migrant communities that survive along a border life, neither fully accepted nor rejected from their role in sustaining American industry. Montoya has closely studied the agonizing and complex situation of these disenfranchised. In #2 Undocumented from 1981, an entangled figure caught in barbed wire with traces of blood can be superficially viewed as a graphic image of the risks taken to cross the US/Mexican border, however, the image makes reference to the undocumented deaths and numerous crimes that go unreported amongst a population that is forced to live in silence.

Malaquias Montoya, #24 Torture,
silkscreen, 2005
Montoya has also produced a series of prints that speak out against capital punishment and strategies of war, such as #24 Torture from 2005. Here a contorted figure is rendered in a gestural angst that conveys a painful state. Montoya pairs his images with text to ensure a guided message to his viewer. Here, the definition of ‘torture’ is provided: “The act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.” However, Montoya includes the reference: “...Spreading Democracy,” bringing awareness to the forceful agenda of institutions under the guise of equality. As Montoya states, “My hope is that the viewer is unable to observe these images without feeling some culpability in these continued acts of violence that have been carried out in our name by our elected leaders. If we don't express opposition to these crimes, we too are maimed...”