Myth And Manpower:
Graphics And The California Dream

Craft & Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles
September 27, 2009 - January 10, 2010

Curated by Bill Stern

 

MYTH AND MANPOWER encourages the visitor to experience the power of graphic design to communicate ideas — from the selling of commercial products to the promotion of social issues.  The exhibition accomplishes this by juxtaposing labels created for promoting California citrus fruits -- and California itself -- with posters that the United Farm Workers of America created to mobilize for agricultural workers’ rights.

Each exhibit in MYTH AND MANPOWER presents one of the glamorous lithographed labels that adorned crates of California citrus fruits that used to be displayed in grocery stores throughout the United States next to one of the tough labor union posters distributed by the United Farm Workers of America.

Carefree Brand
Redlands Orangedale Association
Redlands, California
Designer: Unknown, c. 1940
Printer: Unknown
Medium: Offset lithograph
Dimensions: 10 3/4 in. x 9 7/8 in.
Collection: Museum of
California Design

Dolores
United Farm Workers of America
Designer: Barbara Carrasco, c. 1999
Printer: Self-Help Graphics
Medium: Silkscreen
Dimensions: 26 in. x 18 in.
Collection: Self-Help Graphics Archives
California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections, Donald Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara

Miracle Brand
Bradford Bros. Inc.
Placentia, California
Designer: Unknown, c. 1940
Printer: Western Litho. Co., 
Los Angeles, California
Medium: Offset Lithograph
Dimensions: 10 3/4 in. x 9 7/8 in.
Collection: Museum of 
California Design

 

 

Cesar Chavez: Portrait of La Causa United Farm Workers of America Designer: Octavio Ocampo, n.d. Printer: Unknown. Medium: Lithograph. Dimensions: 25 in. x 17 1/2 in. Collection: Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles

Although they draw on similar themes, each of the graphics in these pairings uses its own style to convey its message. Thus, the key element — whether that be the California landscape, women, modes of transportation or animals — is represented in a radically different way.

The names of few of the artists who designed the citrus labels — which were printed in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the first half of the 20th century — are known. However, most of the United Farm Workers posters in the exhibition, from later in the 20th century, were designed by well-recognized Chicano artists and designers — Barbara Carrasco, Octavio Ocampo, Peter Gallegos, Ricardo Favela, Juanishi Orozco, Estaban Villa, and Xavier Viramontes — and Chicano art collectives — Graphic Arts Group (San Francisco), Royal Chicano Air Force (Sacramento) and La Raza Silkscreen Center (San Francisco).

Both the citrus industry and the United Farm Workers played significant roles in the economic development of California in the 20th century and continue to be mainstays of the state’s economy. Each has had a significant impact on the multi-faceted character of the state, from the wealth that produced “millionaires' row” on Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena to the strides made for social justice by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and other activists of the farm workers movement.

The United Farm Workers posters were lent to the exhibition by the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles and All Of Us Or None Archive, Berkeley, courtesy of Lincoln Cushing.  The citrus box labels are from the collection of the A. K. Smiley Library, Redlands, California, Museum of California Design, Los Angeles, California, and Jill and Lily Collins. Exhibition paper conservator and framing consultant: Kene Rosa.

Tom Cat
Orosi Foothill Citrus Association
Orosi, California
Designer: Unknown, c. 1930
Printer: Unknown
Medium: Offset lithograph
Dimensions: 10 in. x 11 in.
Collection: Archive, A.K. Smiley Public Library

 

 

Side with the Farm Workers United Farm Workers of America Designer: Unknown, c. 1970 Printer: Unknown Medium: Silkscreen Dimensions: 22 3/4 in. x 14 1/2 in. Collection: Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles

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