Archives for posts with tag: oaxaca

SCOM stood in a doorway in Oaxaca and told us some hairy stories of his life as a graffiti artist. He grew up in L.A. His mother came from a remote village in Oaxaca.

20140204-231015.jpgAs a kid, he was George. Sometimes his Mom would bring him to visit family in Oaxaca. One day, his L.A. high school art teacher showed his notebooks to a California art college. “That’s so weird,” says SCOM, “cause she was always flunkin’ me, but I guess she saw potential.” He met the art school admission committee and they offered him a full scholarship. But, he had to come back for a formal interview.

Tiny monster paintings (2 inch squares) by SCOM, collection of Sean Sweeney

Tiny monster paintings (2 inch squares) by SCOM, collection of Sean Sweeney

Unfortunately, right before his big interview he got busted for painting graffiti. He called the art school from jail to reschedule the meeting. They must have had caller I.D. They gave the scholarship to someone else.

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Mural by Scom (detail) barrio Xochimilco, Oaxaca.

“So I just went down to Venice Beach and started painting. I did it for a couple years. It was probably just as well I never went to art school, ’cause I did way more painting. I developed my style, ya’ know? And people bought my stuff. My friends said, ‘Hey, how come you got money, when you don’t got no job?’ I said, hey, this is my job.”

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SCOM’s van parked by Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca, mural by Sanez.

Shots Fired in West Oakland!

Graffiti can be tough. “Once in West Oakland we got shot at. One night me and my partner were painting the back of a billboard on a warehouse. I like the backs better. They stay up longer. We had lookouts down below. So, this homeless guy sees us. He gets out of his little plastic tent, and he says he has asthma and the spray is bothering him. So we are thinking this over. But then I hear this scrape of metal on concrete and the homeless guy drags this big wrench out of his tent and swings it at my buddy, the lookout. Just misses his head. And we are like O.F !”

SCOM and Cesar Chavez spraying a stencil at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca

SCOM and Cesar Chavez spraying a stencil at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca

“I say, ‘should we go down and help him?’ and my partner says, ‘Nah, it’s too far down, just wait.’ The lookouts run off. But then the homeless guy starts bangin’ on a metal door. The door flies open. Out comes a big white guy looks like Elmer Fudd, with the stupid hat and the shotgun!”

Artist's recreation, Kevin McCloskey

Artist’s recreation, Kevin McCloskey

“Just like Elmer Fudd, but he has beard. Comes out with his shotgun and first thing he says is, ‘Where’s the problem?’  Our buds are long gone, but the homeless dude says I think I see two more on the roof.  So F! We move behind the posts. We don’t even breathe. We wait like an hour and we thought it was safe to come down. But, NO! Elmer Fudd was there waiting for us. I heard the shotgun blast and the buck shot was bouncing of the walls all around us. We just ran and didn’t look back. That was West Oakland. East Oakland is supposed to be the tough place, where are the murders are, but in East Oakland the people were nicer to us. They were clapping for us. So you never know.”

Can I Buy a Vowel?

Question: How did you get the name SCOM?  “Well, I was writing a lot, I came up with this phrase, Society Creates Monsters, then I shortened it to SCM. Painted it everywhere. SCM. SCM. Then some dudes said, ‘You know, man, SCM is the tag of a gang you don’t want to mess with,’ so I added the O. SC-O-M. Now, I am SCOM.”

SCOM, Painting on canvas, Taller Siqueiros, Oaxaca.

SCOM, Painting on canvas, Taller Siqueiros, Oaxaca.

SCOM’s paintings on canvas can be seen at Taller Siqueiros and Projecto Chicatana on Porfirio Diaz in Oaxaca. His littlest paintings sell for 150 pesos, about $12. His biggest works can be seen in tunnels and on the backs of billboards all over California and Mexico.

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Yankel and Roberto of Lapiztola at work in Oaxaca. photo: K McCloskey

Lapiz = pencil.  Pistola = pistol. Lapiztola is a stencil collective in Oaxaca. The pun suggests the pencil is as mighty as the pistol. Their artwork has been described a visual poetry. In October, one of Lapiztola’s crew,  Yankel, was on a conference panel in Oaxaca about the city’s street art collectives. Yankel had spent much of the day on a ladder wearing a respirator mask spray-painting a luminous sparrow on a wall at Matria Art Garden a few blocks away. Another artist in the audience proclaimed his love for Lapiztola, but added compared to more radical street collectives he found their stencil murals “decorative and appropriate for restaurants.” -Decorative?  OUCH!

Rosario, Yankel and Roberto of Lapiztola.

Rosario, Yankel and Roberto of Lapiztola.

Walls are where you find them. Yankel responded, sure, Lapiztola might accept invitations, but they would never let a restaurant owner dictate subject matter. They might even get reimbursed for their paint, but they don’t profit from their work.

Reflejos de Huida, stencil, 2013, Lapiztola.

Reflejos de Huida, stencil, 2013, Lapiztola.

Yankel talked about a piece that had appeared in MACO, the Museo Arte Contemporanea de Oaxaca. Reflejos de Huida featured a little boy and birds escaping from a cage. Their inspiration was a real boy they met on the streets who lived a life of extreme stress. Even more than most children he dreamed of escaping the confines of his domestic life.

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El Mundo Feliz /Happy World shows a fire-eating child at an intersection. © Lapiztola

Lapiztola’s art includes the iconic imagery of M-16’s, molotov cocktails, and skulls found in Oaxacan street art since 2006. Lapiztola, however, adds their own visual vocabulary: birds; street musicians; indigenous children. Their work often deals with street-level domestic issues like child welfare and displays a special empathy for Mexico’s children.

Mural image from Lapiztola's tumblr.

Mural image from Lapiztola’s tumblr.

Rosario and Roberto are trained in graphic design, while Yankel studied architecture. Due to their mix of backgrounds the collective’s projects are both graphically crisp and site-specific, taking full advantage of a particular wall’s potential.

A shop gate in Tiajuana © Lapiztola from their

Shop gate project in Tijuana. Mexico © Lapiztola from their blog.

One of the wonderful things about stencils is how the elements can be repurposed. Below Lapiztola reused their accordion playing boy (spraying through the reverse side of the stencil) to collaborate with French artist Seth Globepainter.

Seth (left) with Lapiztola

Seth (left) with Lapiztola

Lapiztola’s artwork looks clever online. Clever is good, but in person, their large-scale visions are more than clever. They are fantastic. They have clarity, visual impact and soul.

Commentary on Genetically Modified Corn, Lapiztola, Oaxaca.

Commentary on Genetically Modified Corn, Lapiztola, Oaxaca.

Check out Lapiztola on Facebook and via their blog. For more info, see Jeffrey Pena’s fine interview with Lapiztola at Curbs and Stoops.

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Irving Herrera creates wonderful images of beautiful woman. What is so remarkable about his artwork is that he appreciates the beauty of the indigenous and mixed-race woman of Oaxaca.

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Throughout Mexico the leggy newscasters you see on T.V. and the models on billboards, calendars, and magazines often look like pure-blooded Europeans. I took a walk looking for examples and found this mind-boggling image in the lobby of a liposuction clinic.

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And here is a more typical image from a dress shop window…

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Such images of so-called ‘female perfection’ bombard the men and women of Oaxaca daily. Dark, broadbodied Indigenous women might play the sympathetic maids, but not the love interest in telanovelas (soap operas.) Irving was born to an indigenous Mixteco family in the high mountain village of Huajuapan de Leon in 1984. He came to Oaxaca and studied with the master printmaker Shinzaburo Takeda.

20131022-182332.jpg Today, Irving Herrera is an artist on a roll. He illustrated the current issue (Oct. 2013) of the magazine, El Jolgorio. It is a special Oaxaca Poetry issue and can be downloaded here. Irving recently had a roomful of his prints exhibited at MACO, The Museo del Arte Comtemporaneo de Oaxaca. He has twice won ‘Young Creative Artist’ grants from the State of Oaxaca to complete the series of oversized portraits he calls, ‘Senora Matanzas.’ I don’t know how to translate this, maybe,’ Killer Women?’

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He told me he carves these portraits from models directly into the wood in a matter of hours. Then he crowns the portrait with the bones of a slaugthered animal, often a goat. The senoras’ seductive expressions are jarringly juxtapozed with the formal posture and dress of the Porfiato (Mexico’s version of Victorian era.) Irving says he’s mixing memories from the slaughterhouses of his boyhood town and the prints of Jose Guadalupe Posada. This past weekend Irving travelled into the mountains accompanied by his beloved teacher Maestro Takeda. The two artists were honored guests at a regional festival in Irving’s pueblo, Huajuapan de Leon, were the woman are so very beautiful.

20131022-230329.jpgIn Oaxaca, Irving Herrera and his talented companeros of Gabinete Grafico studio can be found at 307 Xincotencatl.

Yescka has a grand mural on a full wall in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca. It’s his take on the Last Supper re-imagined Mexico style with Narco-trafficers, cops, politicians and a stripper. I knew him when he was running around pasting his work to walls without permission, risking a beating or arrest.

The Head of Benito Juarez, detail from the Last Supper, stencil and paint.

The Head of Benito Juarez, detail from the Last Supper, stencil and paint.

I met Yescka in 2007 in Oaxaca, and know his real name. He asked me what I thought of his street name of Yescka. I said to English speakers it might sound rather feminine, like Jessica. He laughed and shrugged. I asked if it came from an indigenous language, maybe Zapotec or Mixtec? He told me he made it up from ‘calles’ (streets) backwards. I said calles backwards, sellac, would sound like “Sayack.” He told me it wasn’t exactly backwards, but syllables reversed.  At the time Yescka was one of the younger members of the ASARO collective. He was often in the company of a beautiful young European woman, or two.

Marcha, 2007, detail, woodblock print, ASARO, attributed to Yescka

Marcha, 2007, detail, woodblock print, ASARO, attributed to Yescka

ASARO, the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca, is a collective founded in 2006. ASARO’s art belongs to Mexico’s long tradition of revolutionary public art. Back in 2006, they sold woodblock prints for 100 pesos, roughly $10, in Oaxaca’s public square. ASARO’s real passion, however, was the work they give away.

Stencil graffiti, ASARO, 2007. Oaxaca cathedral

Stencil graffiti, ASARO, 2007. Oaxaca cathedral

Overnight they cut stencils of an arrested comrade, the next morning her portrait was sprayed all over the walls of the historic city. They would print 3ft. tall woodblock prints of goose-stepping police monsters on tissue paper. By dawn a chorus line of mutant policemen would be pasted on walls of the cathedral or Governor’s Palace. I was lucky enough to spend time with ASARO in their studio. I remember meetings where heated discussions took place. Yescka would calmly weave around the room, always painting, sketching, making collages and popping into the conversation. He made some of ASARO’s most distinctive political prints. In those days, they were unsigned.

Taller Siqueiros, Yescka's studio and gallery, Calle Porfirio Diaz, Oaxaca.

Taller Siqueiros, Yescka’s studio and gallery, Calle Porfirio Diaz, Oaxaca.

As ASARO’s fame grew Yescka began doing more personal work. He travelled to Art Basel, to Munich and Oakland leaving a trail of street art along his route. Today he has his own studio in Oaxaca, Taller Siqueiros, named in honor of the radical 20th century Mexican muralist.

Masked Grafittero, Azompa

Masked Grafitero, Azompa, 2009

AZOMPA, 2009.
One day in the town of Azompa, near Oaxaca, collectives from across Mexico came to paint murals on the walls of the municipal basketball court. Azompa was once a small village known for green clayware; today it’s an overcrowded suburb of Oaxaca City. There was a screamo punk band playing at one end of the ballcourt. The lead singer had a head like a bull and wore tire chains over his shoulders. The municipal police roared up in pick-up trucks. Ten blue uniformed police jumped from the truckbeds brandishing clubs; some had sidearms and rifles. They told the crowd of maybe 100 that event was over. The muralists, grafiteros, stopped in mid-stroke. The punk band fled the stage. Yescka who had been stenciling at the far end of the basketball courts, strode through the crowd and took the band’s microphone.

Yescka with ASARO stencil crew in Azompa

Yescka with ASARO stencil crew in Azompa

The gist of what Yescka said was, “If our music disturbed our Azompa neighbors, we apologize, but WE WILL NOT STOP PAINTING! We will NEVER stop exercising our sacred rights to free expression guaranteed under the Mexican Constitution!” He pumped his fist in the air. “Viva Mexico! Viva la Revolucion! The Revolution Continues!”

The crowd roared in agreement. Yescka went on to say that he was thankful so many important “observers” from Mexico City other countries were filming the event and nodded to me and cluster of French hipsters with telephoto cameras. Yescka’s speech saved the day. The police commander got on his walkie-talkie. Then he told his men to stand down. By nightfall, there were 20 new murals extending for over 100 yards along the cinderblock walls of Azompa’s ballcourts.

For more info on ASARO: Princeton University’s Library has a great collection of ASARO prints. I wrote about that collection here. If you’d like to know more about ASARO, I have several essays at Commonsense2.com. ASARO maintains a blog, that is occasionally updated. Yescka is on Facebook as Yescka Guerilla Art, here.

Reflejos de Huida, stencil, 2013, Lapiztola.

Reflejos de Huida, stencil, 2013, Lapiztola.

MACO,The Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca has an exhibition of street art on its walls. Does street art belong in a museum? Well, MACO’s Hecho en Oaxaca spills over into the streets. The artists came from all over the globe, Swoon, The Date Farmers, How and Nosm, MOMO, Retna, Saner, StenLex, and Vhils. Oaxacan artists Yescka, Dr. Lakra, and Lapiztola round out the show curated by Pedro Alonzo.

Lapiztola Collective's birds seem escape onto the street

Lapiztola Collective’s birds seem escape onto the street.

I am fond of Lapiztola’s work. I’ve met them, in fact they once let me hitch a ride home with them from a birthday party in the hills. Their stencils are always crisp graphic statements, often they relate to musical themes. I was not familiar with L.A. artist Retna. Retna’s blue wall at MACO (below) titled “Somos los ninos de las manos manchadas” translates as “We are the children of stained hands.”

Art by Retna, 2013 Acrylic.

Art by Retna, 2013 Acrylic.

His work resembles Arabic calligraphy. I thought Retna also painted the front of ASARO’s studio, Espacio Zapata, home to a gallery and the cafe,”Atila Del Sur.”  A reader informs me it is the work of Sanez.

Retna, Espacio Zapata, Studio of  ASARO collective, # 519 Porfirio Diaz. Van artist unknown.

Wall by Sanez, Espacio Zapata, Studio of ASARO, # 519 Porfirio Diaz. Van artist unknown.

Dr. Lakra has an untitled mural in the exhibition. It looks to be inspired by Hollywood, Bollywood and cheap whiskey. In Lakra’s case, I prefer his simpler ‘dragon woman’ mural on a wall near Espacio Zapata.

Dr. Lakra, untitled, acrylic and spray paint.

Dr. Lakra, untitled, acrylic and spray paint.

Dr Lakra, Street mural, Porfirio Diaz. Oaxaca.

Dr Lakra, Street mural, Porfirio Diaz, Oaxaca.

Swoon’s project is among the largest artworks in the museum. Like many old public buildings in Mexico the museum was once church property until it was seized by the government. Swoon worked around fragments of painted wall decoration which may date from the 17th century. She turned a high-ceilinged room into a temple of intense female figures. To borrow a phrase, the walls reflect both “agony and ecstasy.” Overall, her imagery evokes a suggestion of hope. I first saw Swoon’s work on a wall in Braddock, PA. She is an inspiring artist.

Swoon, detail, showing fragments of colonial wall decoration.

Swoon, detail, showing fragments of the colonial wall decoration.

Wall by Swoon at MACO, Oaxaca.

Wall by Swoon at MACO, Oaxaca.

Swoon’s outside murals were on prime real estate in the historic center of Oaxaca. I was told the building houses Dr. Lakra’s painting studio. Her works are woodblock prints on kraft paper which are pasted to the walls with wheatpaste. In some places they call these works “throw-ups.” The street artist can unroll the work and throw it up on a wall in a matter of minutes.

Oaxaca Street Art by Swoon, complete with a museum label on right edge.

Oaxaca Street Art by Swoon, complete with a museum label on right edge.

I will leave you with an image that includes art by Swoon, but it looks to be a collaboration with Retna and perhaps the blue skull is by Dr.Lakra. Next post I will share work by my old friend Yescka.

Oaxaca Street art, Swoon, Retna, and maybe, Dr. Lakra.

Oaxaca Street art, Swoon, Retna, and maybe, Dr. Lakra.

20130715-144414.jpg In 2006, when all hell broke loose in Oaxaca, and the streets were filled with tear gas, Jesus ‘Chucho’ Martinez was a founding member of ASARO, a radical printmaking collective. Today he works 6 days a week in what may be the most beautiful location for an art workshop. CASA’s Taller de Fieltro, the felt studio, is located in the power room of an old textile mill near Oaxaca. One entire wall is open to the mountain view.

20130715-150214.jpg CASA or the Center for the Arts at San Augustin was founded in 2006 by Maestro Francisco Toledo to be Latin America’s first center for ecology in the arts. The 1883 factory was lovingly restored by architect Claudina Lopez Morales. It has galleries and classroom spaces surounded by reflecting pools and breathtaking views. Even if there is no exhibition it is worth the 20 minute taxi ride from downtown Oaxaca. For those who read Spanish, more info on CASA can be found here.

20130715-151901.jpg Below is a photo of Alejandra Salgado mixing pure white and blue wool for a felt painting. The taller is working with noted artists including Guillermo Olquin, Irma Palacios, Francisco and Miguel Castro Lenero, Paloma Torres and Jan Hendrix. Also participating is the always outlandish Dr. Lakra, who I wrote about once before. Hey, I just realized Dr. Lakra rhymes with Oaxaca.

20130715-153734.jpg Chucho told me they use the finest lamb’s wool including that from Merino sheep. In keeping with CASA’s code the dyes must be nontoxic. They keep a color chart of over ninety different hues that they mix like paint pigment to match the artist’s palette.

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Below Chucho and a colleague work out the material list based on the color charts. Despite the lovely surroundings, clearly this must be a demanding job, working with such important artists.

20130715-170918.jpg Here is detail from Dr. Lakra’s project, a tattoed man. Then following is Lakra’s larger work. Following that is glimpse of Oaxaca artist Guillermo Olquin’s art. All copyright on the images belongs to the original artists. I close out this post with a sampling of the remarkable views surrounding the workshop.

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I believe these remarkable felt artworks will be exhibited in Puebla, Mexico in the near future. When I learn the details of the exhibition, I will update this post.

NOTE: I am blogging from Mexico with my Ipad. It is wonderfully portable, but has its disadavantages. I have trouble adding the accent marks that should appear on some Spanish names. I also can’t caption the photos as easily as I might from a laptop. Sorry.

"Un Gran Consejo"or "Great Advice," César Chávez, 2011

“Un Gran Consejo” or “Great Advice,” César Chávez, 2011

Our 2011 visiting artist César Chávez of Oaxaca, Mexico left a great impression on Kutztown University. He also left a number of plates.

El Chamuco drawn by Cesar Chavez.

“El Chamuco”  by César Chávez, 2011.

Ceramics Prof Jim Chaney formed a half-dozen red clay plates, then iced them with a coat of white slip, or diluted clay. He invited César to the ceramics studio to draw. Prof Chaney speaks some Spanish and once did a ceramics workshop at the University of Azuay in Ecuador. Even though César spent most of his time at Kutztown in the printmaking studio, he was happy to spend one very productive afternoon in the ceramics studio.

"Mescal" by Cesar Chavez 2011

“Mescal” César Chávez, 2011

César is a happy fellow who often draws moody, morbid sketches of the human condition. The plate above suggests mescal, Oaxaca’s agave-based alcohol is “Good for Nothing and Good for Everything.”

"Mojado" by César Chávez

“Mojado” by César Chávez, 2011

Interestingly enough, César is back in Mexico and working in another new material, glass. He has been working with artist Jason Pfohl who founded the international art glass and jewelry studio, Gorilla Glass, in Oaxaca. César’s one-man show “Peste” (Pestilence) opened at Gorilla Gallery this week. He is printing multiple impressions from etched and melted glass. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. César is also continuing his ongoing experiments in computer animation and image projection.

César Chávez, photo  courtesy of Gorilla Gallery

César Chávez, photo courtesy of Gorilla Gallery, Oaxaca, Mexico

César told Gena Mejia of the Imparcial newspaper that he is excited by the infinite possibilities of working in glass. It appears fragile, but can be a strong and very versatile material. If you can read Spanish the full story can be found here. César Chávez is an inspiring artist, a 21st century renaissance man, always searching for new materials in pursuit of his artistic vision.

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Dr. Lakra’s art often appears in Juxtapoz magazine.

Dr. Lakra is not a real doctor. He is a tattoo artist and collector of classic porn. He is, of course, more than this. The cutting-edge magazine Juxtapoz often features his art. I met Dr. Lakra late one night last week in a warehouse across the main highway from the center of Oaxaca.

Dr. Lakra’s MACO mural, opening night, July 13, 2012, photo: KMc

The warehouse encounter was the second of Lakra’s two art openings within a week. The first was the inauguration of an enormous temporary mural at MACO, el Museo Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca. Packed with artists, journalists, and photographers, the MACO opening was so crowded I didn’t even realize Dr. Lakra was in attendance.

Dr. Lakra’s formal MACO opening showing Samurai section of his mural. Photo: KMc

The MACO mural, which he completed in a few weeks with three assistants, covered two high walls. It included a two-story illustration of a Japanese warrior tearing the face off an opponent, clearly appropriated from a Ukiyo-e print. There were monumental sepia-toned portraits of mid-20th century Mexican glamour girls. A troupe of black silhouettes danced along the foreground, bringing to mind Kara Walker’s work.  At sunset the shadows of the trees in MACO’s Patio C played across Lakra’s mural lending the artwork an eerie sense of motion.

Dr. Lakra's canvas mural. photo: KMc

Dr. Lakra’s warehouse mural on canvas, left panels. Photo: KMc

Dr. Lakra’s warehouse reception. Right panels in background.

The second opening, at the warehouse, was quite different. Dr. Lakra greeted everyone cordially, even gatecrashers like me. He wasn’t drinking, but offered us mescal and beer. A woman asked him if he had a bottle opener for her beer. Dr. Lakra took a plastic Gatorade bottle and wedged its orange plastic cap under the beer bottle cap. With a deft flick of the wrist he popped open the beer bottle. The Gatorade bottle was still sealed. Seems Dr. Lakra is a master of many arcane skills.

I was told this warehouse is the studio of another internationally known Oaxacan artist, Demian Flores.  The murals at MACO were painted directly on the walls. These murals filled two giant stretched canvases, one on each side of the room. Done in the same mix of sepia and gray washes, these images were more grotesque than the museum piece.

A gory detail from Dr Lakra’s canvas mural.

Bits of ancient maps and medical anomalies jostled against genies in bottles and high-heeled shoes. Dr. Lakra told me he and his crew had also completed this project quickly. I wondered if the opening wasn’t a tad premature. Some collage elements on the canvas, old duotone magazine photos, fluttered in the breeze each time the warehouse door swung open.

Dr. Lakra looking at his mural with Cesar Chavez. Photo: Kevin McCloskey

In 2007, Dr. Lakra contributed an artwork to my friends of the ASARO collective, a large cubist painting of a man tied to a chair, being tortured. I found his new work even more disturbing than that painting, but I expect this is his artistic intention. Bottom line: I may not like all his imagery, but I do like Dr. Lakra.

NOTE: A very short video of Dr. Lakra’s MACO mural can be seen here .

Monkey face drawn with a comb and diluted acrylic by Lazaro.

This week I taught a 3-day experimental drawing workshop at UABJO, University Benito Juarez, Oaxaca. I love the rainy season here in the mountains of southern Mexico. The workshop was in conjunction with the Kutztown Print exhibit that opened with much fanfare and mescal.

Students at UABJO. Left of me is my co-teacher, Maestro Memo Rito.

Fortunately, I got help from my old Maestro from the School of Visual Arts, Marshall Arisman, chair of SVA’s MFA Illustration program. Months ago, during a busy Spring semester Maestro Miguel Angel Ojeda at UABO asked me to teach a summer workshop. Without much thought, I picked a topic: Experimental Drawing. Thank heavens, I recently bought Marshall’s DVD, Modern Mixed Media.

The video is far superior to most how-to paint or draw videos. Marshall shows his process of internalizing his subject matter through sculpture, drawing, and painting. I must say I had to improvise with materials. Marshall uses paper-mache, india ink applied with bits of cut comb, and oil paints. He even uses gold leaf and a powdered pastel painting product that comes from a Kutztown-based business, PanPastels.

Oaxacan student at work using a piece of comb to draw.

I had one sample of PanPastel to share. Paper-mache, -they got plenty, but gold leaf is out of the question. Here in Mexico, even india ink is a luxury item for art students. The india ink I carried down leaked in my luggage on the plane (stuff happens), so we substituted diluted acrylic paint. The class was over-enrolled, so I went to the Oaxaca’s central market to get some more combs.

Carter at work.

The Oaxacan students watched portions of Marshall’s sacred monkey drawing demos each morning with rapt attention. Then we adjourned to the gallery for our drawing workshop. We substituted powdered graphite for PanPastels to recreate Marshall’s subtractive drawing exercise. The results were, of course, far less colorful, but we managed to explore the process. For our gold leaf halos, Cesar Chavez lent a can of gold spray paint from his graffiti supplies.

We had a great mix of students, from teaching assistants to street artists, and the results were amazing. For me, it was a wonderful experience. Artists and teachers are held in high regard here in Mexico. Oaxaca, in particular, is a mecca for the graphic arts. I was interviewed on radio, TV, and both daily newspapers. If you read Spanish or want to view a slide show of the workshop check this story in Noticias.

By the way, this is not the first time Marshall Arisman saved me. Long ago, when I applied to SVA’s MFA program I didn’t have my Bachelor’s degree. Marshall let me in on one condition: that I complete my Bachelor’s pronto. He changed my life, for the better.

Good news from Mexico! Our shipment of 28 prints arrived safely in Oaxaca, Mexico from Kutztown, PA. The self-portraits in a wide variety of media (including woodblock, etching, serigraphy, and lithography) will be exhibited at Benito Juarez University in the month of July. The prints are by Kutztown University faculty, students, alumni, and friends.

Self-portrait, a Lithograph, by Prof. James Rose

Sending prints to Oaxaca seems odd, like sending flowers to Longwood Gardens. Oaxaca has a great tradition of printmakers from Rufino Tamayo to Rodolfo Morales. Living artists Damian Flores, Shinzaburo Takeda and the ASARO collective continue the tradition. Oaxaca’s best known printmaker is Francisco Toledo. His IAGO, Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca, is the largest public print collection in all Latin America, and a mecca for printmakers.

The Resurgence of Printmaking in the U.S.

Kutztown’s printmaking studio is part of a bigger picture. In recent years many U.S. universities tossed their printing presses to make way for computer labs. Today there is growing interest in traditional printmaking. Young artists are rediscovering the pride and joy of working with their hands. By the way, for dispatches from the trenches of contemporary printmaking there is no better source than Printeresting, and a Kutztown grad, Jason Urban, is one of the creators of that site.

Fortunately, Kutztown University’s printmaking studio thrives under the leadership of Prof. Evan Summer. Evan has won international acclaim for his etchings. The studio is also equipped for lithography taught by Prof. James Rose. Evan opens the studio to visiting artists whenever he can. In 2011, Cesar Chavez of Oaxaca came to demonstrate Oaxaca-style woodblock printing. Cesar was impressed by the artwork he saw and suggested this exhibition to continue the artistic exchange.

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There are prints by KU Professors Evan Summer, James Rose, Miles DeCoster, Kevin McCloskey, and Elaine Cunfer. More are by grads and current students. Pennsylvania is not that different from Oaxaca in one respect. Rare is the artist fortunate enough to make a living from her art. Some KU printmakers are teachers. Others work in shops or offices. Our most recent grads may still be looking for meaningful work. However, all maintain a passion for self-expression through the enduring medium of printmaking. And we are grateful to Cesar Chavez and the Escuela de Bellas Artes, UABJO, for this opportunity to share our art with the people of Oaxaca.

Near Oaxaca?  Visit the exhibition at UABJO, University of Benito Juarez Centro Cultural on Avenida Universidad. Opening Reception: Friday July 6, 7pm. Free and open to the public. The exhibition runs to the 19th of July. If you are not in Oaxaca, you can get an idea of the variety and quality of KU prints from the slide show above.

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