Ravi Zupa Canonizes Sante Muerte: The Patron Saint of Death

1xRUN Thru Interview
Now And At The Hour Of Our Death by Ravi Zupa

1xRun: Tell us a little bit about these pieces…
Ravi Zupa: Along with the limited edition prints here eight small prints that are mounted to wood and individually hand finished. Though they are clearly all the same print, each one is actually very unique.


1xRun: Was this piece part of a recent theme that you had? How did it fit into that given grouping?
Ravi Zupa: This is a continuation of a theme that I featured in my exhibition at Subliminal Projects last fall. For that show I released a print called La Santa Muerte. Santa Muerte is a uniquely Mexican character, particularly in Mexico City. People in DF (distrito federal/Mexico City) have independently canonized her as a Catholic Saint. Saint Death.

Obviously the Vatican is horrified by the idea but in parts of Mexico City, like Zocalo where I saw her, there are people who find Saint Death deeply comforting and liberating. In her shrines, a skeleton is erected and dressed in robes like those of a pope or a monk and covered with jewels, money and flowers. They are unbelievably beautiful. I was told that, worshipers will visit these sites and often leave offerings at her feet, both in gratitude and repentance. Things like money, candles, photographs, drugs and weapons.


In Hinduism, Kali often represents a similar aspect. Both are female, and both are the ultimate destructive force. Hinduism is usually much more flexible and accessible than Catholicism. I love that the people of Mexico are making Christianity work for them in this way, despite the meaningless protests of the Vatican.

I do a lot of images around this idea, Kali, Shiva, Santa Muerte and Mahakala. They’re all different vocabulary for the same phenomena. This piece is an effort toward the same goal, joining Saint Death and Mother Mary. It’s nothing new though, in fact the Hail Mary already did it for me. “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.”

1xRUN: What materials did you use to create these prints ?
Ravi Zupa: Years ago, my mother got an antique printing press from an estate sale and never did anything with it. She recently remembered that she had it and gave it to me. After some difficulty retrieving it and figuring out how to fine tune it, this piece represents my first completion of a project using that press.


The original (9×12 inch) prints were made using a reduction, relief, printing method. This means that all three colors were derived from the same linoleum block, in succession from light to dark. I first carved out the image that would be yellow, printed all of the pages, then removed more from the same block to print the red on the same pages. I then removed more again before printing the final black. For registration, which is the real challenge for this process, I used a pin method of my own invention that proved to be pretty clumsy. Out of 60 total prints, these are the 8 that I am really happy with. Lesson learned.


The neat thing about a reduction is that once you’ve carved away the original color and printed a number of pages, you are limited to that number and if they don’t turn out, there’s no going back and getting more.

The larger posters are basically the same process but with three separate silk screens pulled from the three colors of the smaller prints.


1xRun: When were these works created?
Ravi Zupa: Right before I sent it off to Detroit, April 2014.

1xRun: How long did these pieces take?
Ravi Zupa: Carving each color from the block takes roughly 6 hours, the press makes printing a breeze so all 60 pages can be printed in 2 to 3 hours. I use oil based ink so they need to dry for about 4 days and then the process is repeated 2 more times. ravi-zupa-now-and-at-the-hour-of-our-death-18x24-1xrun-blog-hero1xRun: Past and present, what artists inspire you?
Ravi Zupa: I’m inspired by countless artists. All I do is look at books, get inspired by artists and then try to generate that same inspiration and excitement in others. It’s always different and usually pretty clear who I’m biting. For this project, I look to Albrecht Durer, Francisco Goya and of course, most obviously, Jose Posada.

Outside of visual art, I’m most inspired by rap. Nothing keeps you motivated like the sound of celebration from the mouths of people who have come from nothing.

Recently I read “Breakfast Of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut which is really excellent. I also saw “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” for the first time. That’s a very beautiful movie.


1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Ravi Zupa: Rap is the greatest large scale intellectual endeavor that humanity has ever embarked upon. Second only to literacy. No other art form is as carefully and persistently situated in the realm of idea, story, wit and language. It also somehow maintains a loyalty to practicality and rarely gets too theoretical and meaningless. Lately it’s been Kendrick Lamar, Andre, Missy. There are some wonderful artists from your city, Royce da 5’9″ and Eminem. And of course, FowL is so beautiful. I also love David Byrne, Ween, Pink Floyd and Neil Young, to name a few. These artists are, “Honorary Rap”.

1xRun: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why?
Ravi Zupa: Probably Kendrick Lamar. Also more immediately realistic. I’d like to work with a really great mash-up artist who knows what they’re doing and sees the potential in that particular form of art. My art is largely; ideological, visual mash-up, though I want to stress that I draw and paint every image. There’s nothing wrong with sampling, in fact it’s magnificent, but I don’t do it.

1xRun: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
Ravi Zupa:
All I can say for now is: stay tuned. I have some amazing shit on the horizon. Thank you for the chance to share my art with you and your people.

1xRun: Where else can people find you?
Ravi Zupa:  WebsiteFacebookInstagram @RaviAmarZupa