This blog post is a continuation of the Hawn Gallery’s series on the exhibition Collective Practice: Community Building Through Zines by Puro Chingón Collective. Below is a discussion of pieces in the exhibition, chosen by Curatorial fellow Emily Rueggeberg.
In addition to zines, Puro Chingón Collective also creates designer toys. Unlike toys found in commercial stores, designer toys are collectible objects made for display rather than play. The first resin cast series of designer toys created by the Collective, State of Tejas is from the Fiesta Series. While each of the member’s works are the same size and referencing their novelty aspect, the subject matter varies. Each member draws upon their own backgrounds and experiences, creating pieces that are uniquely their own, but still come together as a cohesive body of work.
James Huizar’s inspiration for his piece, Great State of Tejas, featured above, was his upbringing in a small town, which also influences his printmaking. Huizar’s interest lies in rural Texas and the blue collar workers who live there. The figure’s hat references this cultural and demographic area. It is modeled after hats worn by field workers.
James’ work leans towards Texas imagery in his prints and designer toys, and uses naturalistic colors, whereas Claudia Aparicio-Gamundi applies her graphic design skills to the Collective’s prints. The results are bold text and colorful, eye-catching imagery. Claudia Zapata also utilizes bright color palettes and draws from her art historical practice. Many of her anthropomorphic characters such as the Mapache Bear (a cross between a raccoon and bear) are tied to Pre-Columbian imagery.
Zapata’s knowledge of art history also shaped a commissioned piece called San Antonio Four. This piece was commissioned by a PhD candidate from the University of Texas, Austin, whose research focused on the “San Antonio Four” criminal case. This case involved four queer Latina women – Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez – who were accused of molesting Ramirez’s two nieces and were ultimately sentenced to decades-long prison sentences. After almost fifteen years in prison, the women were recently exonerated in 2016 after the testimonies and medical evidence proved faulty. The case took place during the “Satanic Panic” in the U.S. – a period in which mass panic of satanic cults and rituals pervaded the American psyche in the 80s and 90s.
The Collective was asked to depict the courtroom scene that included the women, judge and jury. The imagery also incorporates language from the court documents that emphasize body parts – both of the women and children. On the left are four women’s nude torsos, revealing how they were not only on trial for their alleged actions, but also for their sexual orientation and identity. Influenced by discrimination, the four women were ultimately convicted of these crimes, which were backed by very little evidence.
San Antonio Four, the Collective’s first commission, proved to be a challenge for the group both logistically and thematically. The members had to address how they would create a cohesive design in rendering the print together. In addition, they had to address how to make a print incorporating the vivid colors requested and within the client’s budget.
To accommodate these practical challenges, Claudia Zapata took the lead on the design. What began as a simple three-color screen print morphed into a digital print with vibrant colors and a dizzying amount of detail. The preparatory drawings for San Antonio Four below illustrate the phases the piece underwent. Zapata drew from her art historical background, looking at depictions of Hell by various artists, finally settling on Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings of Hell and purgatory. The result is a cohesive, and richly textured, narrative graphic work.
Featured image: James Huizar, The Great State of Tejas (orange), Acrylic on resin, hand-casted & hand-painted, Edition of 5, 2014, 5″ x 8″ x 3″.
Images: Courtesy of Puro Chingón Collective, for which all rights are reserved.
Blog post: Curatorial Fellow for the Hawn Gallery, Emily Rueggeberg, with comments by Claudia Zapata.