This virtual exhibition focuses on the work of two contemporary Mexican-American artists: Consuelo Underwood, a weaver, and Diego Rios, a printmaker. Both create challenging works that deal with social issues following the tradition of the great Mexican muralists and printmakers.

Rios recalls that at the age of three he saw a painting by Orozco which would determine the course of his life. Rios' work shows the influence of the political concerns of Orozco, images of death influenced by Posada's Calaveras, and militant angels of Colonial Latin America. He combines these and other influences with a fantasy inspired by the Surrealists and words of rock music to create powerful anti-war images that are uniquely his own.

Underwood revives the beauty and the techniques of ancient Andean weavers , but adds references to heroes of the Mexican Revolution and to the plight of the migratory agricultural works. She combines images of the Virgin of Guadalupe with the contemporary caution sign seen on highways in California and Arizona which warn motorists not to hit running migrants. Underwood identifies with the little girl in the sign which shows a family fleeing across the border, for as a child she worked the fields of California with her family and had to cross the border many times. She recalls that as a girl of nine she read the story of Joan of Arc, the poor shepherdess who followed her voices. Consuelo decided that if Joan could lead the troops of the French king against the English, she could work her way out of the fields. She did so, and has become one of the outstanding craftsmen of the United States. In the exhibition you will see the shrouds she wove for Joan of Arc and for her other heroes.

You may examine the work of Rios and Underwood in great detail by clicking on the thumbnail images in the Contemporary section and following the instructions for zooming them. This uses a special technology that allows large images to go quickly over the web by sending only the parts of the image that you are examining.

Other parts of the exhibition will set the work of these two artists in context, examining the traditions that helped shape their work: the great traditions of Pre-Columbian Mexico and Peru, the conquest by the Spaniards who brought a lust for gold and a new religion, and the blending of the Christian Virgin Mary with the ancient Aztec goddesses to create the powerful and compassionate Virgin of Guadalupe (watch animation). You will see the transformation of the Christian feast of All Souls as it interacted with indigenous beliefs regarding death to create the Mexican Day of the Dead, and you will see how the festival is celebrated in San Francisco , California in 2003.

You will have the opportunity to learn a bit about the Mexican Revolution and its heroes and about the great Mexican artists of the people: Rivera, Orozco, Siquieros, and Tamayo. You will also learn about the legendary Aztlan, the northern homeland of the ancient Aztecs before they migrated to the Valley of Mexico and the dream of return which is being acted out by contemporary migrants who come to work in 'el Norte.'

The seventeen students who worked on this project are designers, computer and multimedia specialits, and art historians. They come from a variety of backgrounds: African-American, Chinese-American, Thai-American, Filipino-American, Mexican-American, Anglo, Anglo-Indian, Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, and Kenyan. As they worked on the project they learned about the Mexican-American heritage, and they talked about the meaning of the work of these two artists which combined and distilled a variety of traditions, and about the artists themselves whose very lives blended their cultural traditions with their identities as Americans. This had special meaning for the students who are so-called 'new Americans,' who are in the process of defining themselves in relation to their own cultural traditions and their new identities as Americans. From the work of Diego Rios and Consuelo Underwood we all learned that art is able at the same time to encapsulate and to transcend individual experience in order to speak to us all.

We share our efforts with you and hope that through this exhibition you will come to appreciate another facet of the rich tapestry that makes up the American tradition, a tradition in which we hope that each American, old or new, will be valued for their individual contribution.

--Kathleen Cohen, Professor of Art History, San Jose State University

From a Student Perspective

Anand Patel, BA Design Studies
David Medal, BA Design Studies-minor Photography
David Nguyen , BFA Digital Media-Graphic Design
Eduardo Gamino, BA Digital Media
Euray Kwong, BA Design Studios
Gladys Murphy, BFA Digital Media
I-Fang Liu, MA Digital Media in Art History & Education
Jennifer Jimenez, BFA Digital Media
Kelly Zelnio, MA Art History
Kanako Ota, MFA, Digital Media
Kristan Calvert, MA Art History
Kristen Smith, BFA Graphic Design
Lemuel Herring, BA Studio Art
Perry Chan, SBA Graphic Design
Randy Alonso, BA Design
Ryan Jung, BFA Digital Media
Ryan Kelley, SBA Design
Sarah Kinuthia, BFA Digital Media