At DePaul Art Museum, A Pair of Shows Offer Power to the People

Vivid colors bring to life messages of hope, and resistance. A pair of new art shows on the campus of DePaul University look at the power of the people through the power of printmaking.

“Chicago Tonight” toured the exhibition in advance of its opening.

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Eddie Arruza:Resist, Relate, Unite” is the first solo museum show by Barbara Jones-Hogu, a founding member of AfriCOBRA, an artist collective that formed in Chicago in 1968.

Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director/curator at DePaul Art Museum: They wanted to uplift the black community.

The group AfriCOBRA wanted to make their work accessible to a broader public, so they would make screen prints in editions and sell them for between 10 and 20 dollars, so that people could actually own these original works of art.

Arruza: Barbara Jones-Hogu was central to the Black Arts Movement in Chicago in the 1960s. She contributed to the famous “Wall of Respect” mural that once stood at the corner of 43rd and Langley.

Jones-Hogu earned her master’s in printmaking from the Institute of Design, and also had degrees from Howard University and the School of the Art Institute. She taught at Malcolm X College for three decades.

  • WTTW cameraman Felix Mendez

    WTTW cameraman Felix Mendez

Widholm: The exhibition traces the arc of her printmaking. She started making black and white woodcuts and before she joined AfriCOBRA and before the philosophy and aesthetic philosophy of the group was articulated, she was making work that was more critical of American politics, but once she joined AfriCOBRA the group collectively decided they wanted to focus on positive imagery, they wanted to focus on relationships and love and pride, and so you’ll see throughout the work these kind of graphic, colorful images that relate to African culture, you’ll see some forms that relate to African masks and sculpture, so that was important for them to kind of reconnect to that cultural heritage.

Arruza: Jones-Hogu did not live to see her first solo exhibition. She died in 2017.

Widholm: Unfortunately she was ill for a few years. She was in a nursing home and in November she passed away unexpectedly, but I’m very happy to say that we received her blessing to put this exhibition together, and we’re very grateful that she allowed the DePaul Art Museum to have the honor to really present her work for the first time in this way.

Arruza: Another show at the DePaul Art Museum is a tribute to printmaker and muralist Jose Guerrero, who made his mark in Pilsen and throughout the city.

Artists and friends contributed original prints to remember the beloved artist and activist who died in 2015.

John Pitman Weber, artist and friend of Jose Guerrero: He was a great person to collaborate with. If you were a friend of Jose Guerrero, you were really a friend for life.

He was not an artist who either sought or achieved any kind of commercial visibility or even visibility within the larger art world.

Arruza: The show is tied to the Jones-Hogu exhibit by a sense of activism – and by the fact that both artists were underappreciated in their lifetimes.

Widholm: I think in general, a lot of artists in Chicago have been overlooked.

Barbara Jones-Hogu became very interesting to me because of the kind of colorful, graphic, really beautiful, technically beautiful prints that she made that were also very strongly political and speaking directly to a black community, so her use of text where she’s really using language to call out important messages of uplift, of unification, to create a kind of cultural black nation, I thought was really relevant to life today.

I hope people will come, look at this work and recognize the important messages that a strong female artist had in her work in the ‘60s and that can continue to influence younger generations today.

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