Mexican printmaker César Chávez has been welcomed by KU’s Visual and Performing Arts Student Gallery from his journey from Mexico. Chavez’ first trip to the U.S was to visit KU and show students his style of art.
Born in 1979 in Puebla, Mexico, he has been well-received in the art scene because of his political and truthful art. Chávez studied Fine Arts at Benito Juarez University, Oaxaca. He is best known for his prints, but he is also a painter and an installation artist. César uses relief prints, woodblock, wheatpaste and linoleum block prints.
KU had the rare opportunity to have Chávez come to KU as a visiting artist. It is hard it is to get a temporary visa to get into the U.S. This visit to KU is the first ever trip to the U.S Chávez has ever embarked on.
In 2006, Chávez founded the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca (ASARO) and was the master printer for the organization.
ASARO is collectively known for their representations of “street art” murals, stencils and prints, which is what Chávez focuses on.
During Chávez’s time as master printer for ASARO, the social climate of Oaxaca was anything but pretty. In May 2006, a teachers’ strike got out of hand and the local police opened fire on a peaceful protest. A few human rights organizations claimed that 27 people were killed, including an American activist named Brad Will.
A lot of the inspiration for his work comes from the social conflicts that were and are still present in Oaxaca.
“I look at a lot of newspapers and police reports and take into consideration what events are occurring with the political and social climate of Oaxaca,” Chávez said through his translator.
Even if someone doesn’t know the slew of political and social events that inspired these works, the technicality in which he executes the work is astounding. His immense attention to detail is powerful and stands out among other woodblock prints.
Chávez’ work encompasses the ideas of distorted figures, representations of violence, sexuality, and dark images not traditionally seen in prints. A snake is a reoccurring image within his work, perhaps suggesting the evils of society.
“My work is kind of like abstract art; everyone has their own point of view and they each take away something different,” Chávez explained.
Though Chávez is still working in conjunction with ASARO, he is now turning his focus to curetting a body of personal work which the series will be called “Malos Tratos.”
In 2011 he was awarded with an “Emerging Artist Grant” from the Foundation of the Arts in Puebla, Mexico. This grant will allow Chávezto devote his time to coming up with the body of work for his personal collection.
He plans to create an animated film based on the prints that he makes for this project.
Chávez has exhibited internationally and has visited as a visiting artist a universities in Valencia, Spain and in Nagoya, Japan. His work is now included in the collections of Princeton University, UCLA and now KU.
Chávez has been critically acclaimed and has been given numerous awards including the Takeda Prize at the 2010 Takeda Biennial of Graphic Arts.
He currently resides and works in Oaxaca, which the city is “famed” for its visual artists.