“It is very important to understand the relationship between art and society,” Enrique Chagoya has said. Chagoya combines imagery from art history and cartoons, appropriates images from various cultures, and juxtaposes disparate figures in satirical ways. In a 10-foot-long scroll, titled An American Primitive in Paris, for example, he mixed images of Superman, Jesus, and Aztec diagrams with portraits of Claude Monet and Che Guevara. In making his art, Chagoya has used painting, drawing, printmaking, video-animation, and installation. “My artwork is a conceptual fusion of opposite cultural realities that I have experienced in my lifetime,” he says. Ken Johnson wrote in 2000 in the New York Times, “Enrique Chagoya is a gifted caricaturist and mimic. He grapples with the conflicts of his own hybrid inheritance, giving expression to an irreverent, wildly pluralistic imagination.”
Chagoya was born in Mexico City in 1953. His father, a bank employee by day and painter by night, encouraged Chagoya’s interest in art by teaching him to sketch at an early age. As a young adult, Chagoya enrolled in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in 1975, where he studied political economy and drew political cartoons for labor union newsletters. In 1977 he immigrated to the United States and worked as a union organizer for farmers in Texas. Later he moved to Berkeley, California, where he embarked on a career in art. He began as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. In 1984 Chagoya earned a BFA in printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute and then pursued an MA and MFA at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1987. He is now an associate professor at Stanford University. He lives in San Francisco.
Chagoya’s early interest in political economy continues to inform his work. “Humankind is at constant war with itself, and is perfectly capable of total destruction,” he has said. “This is the raw material of my work.” He is a versatile printmaker, working in his own studio and in the printmaking workshops Shark’s Ink in Colorado, Universal Limited Art Editions in New York, and Crown Point Press for a 1997 project, Why Draw a Live Model?
Chagoya’s work is represented in the collections of museums worldwide, including the the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Centro/Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City. He has had many solo exhibitions, and in 2007 the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa mounted a twenty five-year survey “Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia.” Chagoya has received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and in 1997 he won an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Enrique Chagoya is represented by Gallery Anglim Gilbert, San Francisco.
-Dana Zullo, Crown Point Press