These five prints are tests for a much larger aquatint reworking of Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devours His Son (one of 14 “Black Paintings” Goya painted between 1819 and 1823). In the original painting, through the act of consuming his children—for fear that they would usurp him—Saturn has gone insane. The brutality of the act has rendered him a monster.
This image has carried immense graphic power over the past 200 years. When students at the University of California Berkeley went on strike in 1970 in protest of Nixon bombing Cambodia (and as part of a nationwide student strike), they occupied a building and set up a poster-making workshop. One of the most reproduced posters to emerge was by then-student Jay Belloli, who reworked and simplified Goya’s image into a one color screenprint surrounded by the text “Amerika is Devouring Its Children”—a direct critique of the draft and the US war in Vietnam. A decade later in NYC’s Lower East Side, political stencil and comic book artist Seth Tobocman re-imagined Saturn again, this time with an anticapitalist bent, for a panel titled “You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive” in his influential 14-page comic The World Is Being Ripped. Fifteen years later in 1996, the billboard alteration crew California Department of Corrections covered a highway billboard with Goya’s Saturn, captioned with the text “You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive.” Jump ahead another 15 years and Bay Area poster artist Claude Moller replaced bus shelter advertisements with giant paintings of Saturn (more in the vein of Belloli’s then the original Goya) with the text “San Francisco Devouring Its Future”—commentary of the tech boom and the explosion of the cost of living in the Bay.
I’m co-organizing a print portfolio with Maggie Denk-Leigh at the Cleveland Institute of Art called Enduring Images, which will feature 15 re-imaginings of classic political graphic and imagery, from El Lissitsky’s Red Wedge to Silence=Death’s pink triangle. My contribution is a reimagining of Saturn, now a happy emoji on an iPhone, gleefully ripping the flesh off its children.
This is the first etching I have ever printed!