Monday, February 12, 2018

The Social Activism of Favianna Rodriguez' Prints

Favianna Rodriguez (b. 1978) is recognized as an interdisciplinary artist and cultural organizer known for using her art as a tool for activism. Rodriguez was born in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Fruitvale, located in east Oakland, California. Her parents migrated from Peru having in the late 1960s. Rodriguez’s artistic talents emerged at a young age. As a teenager, Rodriguez went to live in Mexico City where she became interested in politically engaged artwork, learning about the political context of murals and the work of Frida Kahlo. When she returned to Oakland, she became involved with activism and other Latinx organizers.

Fruitvale is where Rodriguez experienced and became aware of anti-Latinx racism. She observed that students from her community were under-served by the school system, profiled as gang members and the media often marginalized women of color.

She attended the University of California Berkeley, but withdrew at age 20 indicating she wanted to follow her own path, and chose to pursue a career in political art.
She began her career designing political posters in the 1990s; during Oakland, California’s period of struggle for racial justice. Her bold and colorful images tackle a variety of issues including: globalization, immigration, feminism and genetically modified foods.

Inspired by the work of Chicana artist Yreina Cervantez and the printmaking medium, for its power to educate, organize, and liberate communities, Rodriguez’ work has been deeply influenced by the Chicano Movement and feminist art of the 1970s and 1980s. She has studied the history of political art, including the artwork and graphics associated with the Black Panthers and the 1970s feminist movement. Artists that have influenced Rodriguez include: Romare Bearden, Rupert Garcia, Ester Hernandez, Frida Kahlo, Yolanda Lopez, Pablo Picasso, Taller de Grafica Popular, and Rufino Tamayo.

Rodriguez's art is typified by high-contrast colors and graphic figures whose messages range from immigration, racism, war, globalization, and social movements. I was immediately struck by Rodriguez’ connectedness to artwork from the 1970s, and affirmation of family, identity, and speaking out about social injustice. Her work harkens back to the advocacy movements of the 1970s and the flower-power era, yet her work hits a social nerve. It speaks about issues currently affecting this country, and after looking at her work, one can see on one level that we haven’t come very far in 40 years. In another vein, Rodriguez’ work shows us that the clear and direct method of her images’ messages are just as poignant and relevant today as they would have been had she been making work back in the 1970s. The message carried in her work rings true, and minces no words. She has a voice and she knows what to say with it.

The work is also a part of the current social-political movement in Latino printmaking, which has always been a necessary component of ‘art as a visual communication’. As long as Rodriguez continues her work, there will be a better awareness of the world’s conditions. Her dramatic compositions and strong use of image and text are assured and leave no room for misunderstanding her message. It is a body of work that appeals to the masses in the best sense of the principles of printmaking – that an image can carry the message beyond language and culture differences. Rodriguez is at the top of her game, and we can learn from her passion to bring the arts to our communities.

In addition to making images, Rodriguez works with multiple advocacy groups. She is the Executive Director and co-founder of CultureStrike, a national network of artists and activists who support the national and global arts movement around immigration. She also serves on the board of, a national online organizing network dedicated to the political empowerment of Latino communities.

She is co-founder of Tumis Inc., a bilingual design studio providing graphics, web, and technology development for social justice. Rodriguez also co-founded EastSide Arts Alliance and Cultural Center, an organization of artists and community organizers intended to promote community sustainability through political and cultural awareness and leadership development.

In 2003, Rodriguez, along with Jesus Barraza, helped establish the Taller Tupac Amaru print studio to promote the practice of screen printing among California-based artists. She is also a member of the Justseeds Cooperative which distributes prints and publications about social and environmental movements. Rodriguez has mentored dozens of emerging young artists and helped establish a multi-use arts facility in the heart of East Oakland.

She has widely lectured at schools (including UC-Santa Cruz, Stanford, Michigan State, and Syracuse University) on the use and power of art in civic engagement. She also lectures on cultural organizing and technology to inspire social change.

In 2013, Rodriguez worked with the YouTube channel I Am Other to create Migration is Beautiful, a three-part documentary series addressing the immigration policy in the United States and the perception of immigrants. She is also the co-author of Reproduce and Revolt with Josh MacPhee.

2012 Emerging Leader Award, Chicana Latina Foundation, San Francisco, CA
2011 Creative Work Fund Award, San Francisco, CA
2011 Innovation Grant, Center for Cultural Innovation, Los Angeles, CA
2010 Inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame in Arts & Culture, Alameda County, CA
2009 OPEN Foundation Individual Artist Grant, Oakland, CA
2008 Named one of the leading 50 visionaries by UTNE Magazine
2008 Sister of Fire Award, Women of Color Resource Center, Oakland, CA
2007 Belle Foundation Individual Artist Award, San Jose, CA
2007-2008 Artist-in-Residence, Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA
2005 Art Is a Hammer Award, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, CA
2005 Artist-in-Residence, de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
2006 Sea Change Residency from the Gaea Foundation, Provincetown, MA

de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
House of Love & Dissent, Rome, Italy
Huntington Museum and GalerĂ­a Sin Fronteras, Austin, TX
Mexican Fine Arts Center, Chicago, IL
Multicultural Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Museo del Barrio, New York, NY
Parco Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Also exhibitions in England, Belgium, and Mexico.

If you want to help support Rodriguez’ work and her advocacy projects, see her site at

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