Object of the Month

Title: The History of Surveillance
Artist: Enrique Chagoya (b.1953)
Nationality: Mexican
Date: 2011
Medium: color lithograph
Credit: 2012.1

Born in Mexico City, Enrique Chagoya immigrated to the United States with his wife in 1977. Working at first as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer, Chagoya earned a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from the University of California at Berkeley. Influenced by his experiences of living in both Mexico and the United States, Chagoya integrates secular, popular, and religious imagery to create what he describes as a “product of collisions between historical visions, ancient and modern, marginal and dominant paradigms—a thesis and an anti-thesis that end in a synthesis in the mind of the viewer.” His work is held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Chagoya printed The History of Surveillance at Anchor Graphics at Columbia College Chicago. The lithograph features a skeleton sitting on a toilet that, in this most private moment, is watched by an intrusive eyeball emerging from a triangle surrounded by light. The eye and the triangle reference the “all-seeing eye of God,” which in the Medieval and Renaissance era symbolized the Christian Trinity and is presently most associated with the Great Seal of the United States. This comparison of organized religion and the U.S. government through an image of power abuse and surveillance highlights Chagoya’s interests in xenophobia, scrutiny, and cultural conflict in a post-9/11 world.

—Claire Kissinger (WCAS 2015)

You can make an appointment to see this work and others from the Block Museum's permanent collection. Email printroom@northwestern.edu or see Visit the Study Center for more information.