Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Chagoya studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he earned a BFA in printmaking in 1984. He also received an MA and MFA at the University of California, Berkeley, 1987.
Chagoya examines the recurring subjects of colonialism and oppression that continue to influence contemporary American foreign policy . Drawing from his experiences living on both sides of the United States-Mexico border in the late 70s, and also in Europe in the late 90s, Enrique Chagoya juxtaposes secular, popular, and religious symbols in order to address the ongoing cultural clash between the United States, Latin America, and the world. He uses familiar pop icons to create deceptively friendly points of entry for the discussion of complex issues. Through these seemingly harmless characters, Chagoya examines the cultural clash that continues to riddle contemporary life.
His work can be found in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; Des Moines Art Center in Iowa; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Berkeley Art Museum; and the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards such as two National Endowment for the Arts artist fellowships; a Tiffany Fellowship; an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; a President’s Award for Excellence from the San Francisco Art Institute; and a grant from Artadia.
Chagoya is currently a professor at Stanford University’s Department of Art and Art History.