In 1979, at the tender age of 20, Rene Arceo, born in Michoacan on the shores of Lake Chapala, moved from Guadalajara to Chicago, utilizing a classic route—bus to Tijuana, coyote and car trunk to Los Angeles, and direct flight to Chicago.
Unless prevailing ideas about the classic path of Latinos in the United States are mistaken, these may have been the last classic steps Arceo took in his life. Early on, the young man did have unremarkable jobs in small factories in the Chicago area. However, steeped as he was in the highly political atmosphere of Preparatoria Número Dos (a public high school within the University of Guadalajara system), once in Chicago, Arceo veered mightily towards education, community organizing, and especially to communicating his often political ideas. He did the latter via many forms of printmaking—woodcut, screen printing, intaglio (sugar lift, aquatint, drypoint, etching, varnishes, and so on)—as well as painting and drawing.
A limited-edition art book “René Arceo—Between the Instinctive and the Rational,” celebrates Arceo’s decades of artistic production. Tucked into its 153 pages are the remarkable facts behind the work—Arceo’s acceptance just two years after crossing the border into the illustrious School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he tackled many artistic media, received a BFA and teaching certificate, and evidenced a love for collaborating with other artists, especially those working to build a Latino identity in Chicago.