One look at the graphic art of Mexican Artist Artemio Rodriguez will leave you in no doubt about its inspiration. His teeming black and white studies of galloping ghouls, dancing devils, and sombreroed saints summon up the pamphlet art of Jose Guadalupe Posada, the great turn of the century illustrator, whose prints, featuring sardonic studies of skeletons, known as calaveras (from the Spanish word for “skull”), defined modern Mexican printmaking and influenced the revolutionary mural painters, especially Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. Rodriguez has updated Posada’s artistic idiom without losing the satirical sting, making use of religious imagery, drawn from traditional Roman Catholic art and Mexican popular culture.
Rodriguez was born in the village of Tacambaro in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan, the son of a farmer-construction worker who spent half of the year away in the United States, harvesting fruit and tobacco. Rodriguez received a scholarship to study agronomy at Mexico’s premier school for agricultural studies just outside Mexico City but never got his degree.
He discovered something far more compelling closer to home. Mexican Master Printer Juan Pascoe had opened a workshop in an old hacienda just outside Tacambaro to produce books, using the centuries-old technique of hand press printing. Rodriguez became his apprentice and made his first linocut illustrations there.