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Taller de Gráfica Popular (Mexico City, Mexico)

Also known as
Popular Graphic Arts Workshop, TGP, T.G.P., Werkstatt für Volkstümliche Grafik (Mexico City, Mexico), Taller de Gráfica Popular, Mexico

The most influential and enduring progressive printmaking collective of its time, the Taller de Gráfica Popular (the Popular Graphic Art Workshop or TGP; 1937–2010) created some of the most memorable images in midcentury printmaking. This Mexico City–based workshop took up the legacy of the famous Mexican broadside illustrator José Guadalupe Posada, creating prints, posters, and illustrated publications that were popular, affordable, legible, politically topical, and, above all, formally compelling.

Founded in 1937 by Leopoldo Méndez, Luis Arenal, and American-born Pablo O’Higgins, the TGP emerged and evolved in the crucible of anti-fascist and leftist politics in Mexico in the period surrounding World War II. This environment shaped not only the workshop’s dedication to a collective printmaking model but also its production aimed at both “the people” and discerning collectors, a strategy necessitated by the era’s quickly changing political tides. The collective created works for groups spanning the leftist and progressive political spectrum, including the government of Lázaro Cárdenas and his successors, the Mexican Communist Party, major trade unions, and anti-fascist organizations.

During the TGP’s heyday, from its founding until the 1950s, the workshop produced thousands of prints, primarily linocuts and lithographs, for everything from ephemeral handbills and newspapers to political and advertising posters to luxe portfolios and printed books. Through an expressive, realist visual language, TGP’s work addressed a wide range of socially engaged themes, including Mexican history and culture, both local and international political satires (including calavera broadsides), rural and urban scenes of daily life, and agitprop prints. The members of the workshop, a core of about 40 during its height, produced both individual and collective works and welcomed numbers of foreign members and guest artists—from Elizabeth Catlett to Josef Albers—to use the workshop in order to collaborate on prints and create individual pieces.

The Art Institute holds over 100 works by the TGP, one of the most significant collections in the United States and a testament to the collective’s expansive influence, which led to the establishment of print collectives around the world.

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