Oaxaca’s Painting Biennial at MACO

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MACO stands for Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca. We had the good fortune to visit during the XVII Rufino Tamayo Biennial Exhibition. Tamayo,  born in Oaxaca, was one of the great Mexican painters of the 20th century. The exhibition of 50 artworks ranging from abstraction to realism is a juried show of painters working in the region.

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The witty mixed-media work  by Victor Suiser, above, is called “Tepeyollotl ruge con la voz de cuatrocientos jergas” Roughly translates, maybe, to “The Jaguar/Earth God roars with the voice of 400 hoodies.” (thanks, Google) Those are ten peso coins for eyes.

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Suave Patria by Sergio Garvel 2016

The work above, Suave Patria, Smooth Country, by Sergio Garvel is oil paint and gold leaf on canvas. It recalls the tzompantli , or skull racks of the Aztecs and Maya. The shopping cart might reference the carts protesters filled with stones during Oaxaca’s street battles of 2006.

The art students with me pointed out their favorite paintings. Several were drawn to Fernando Motilla Zarur’s photo-realistic self-portrait, oil on canvas, 2015. MACO is worth a visit no matter what is on the walls. The historic building was long ago the home of Spanish nobility. It was said to have been a home of the Conquistador Hernando Cortez, though  historians now dispute that idea.

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Autoretrato by Fernando Motilla Zarur

Fragments of 17th century murals adorn the walls. You can see them beside Zarur’s self-portrait(above).  Sarape #1 , (below) by Paul Muguet, 2016, was done with spray paint and masking tape. This homage to the humble blanket design in the context of a contemporary art museum is eye-poppping and provocative.

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Statuesque nudes on a runway is a jolting idea for a narrative painting. That is the theme of Samuel Melendrez Bayardo work, “El Aeropuerto de Paul,” oil on canvas, 2015.

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Detail of oil painting by Samuel Meledrez Bayardo
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Detail of work by Veronica Conzuelo Macedo

Veronica Conzuelo Macedo’s “Sorri mom I love graf” (detail, above) is a 21st century spin on the classic Mexican landscape. It is done in egg tempera on linen over wood.

This is just a small sample of the remarkable art in the exhibition. Some images were gritty, some witty, and few, I admit, I could not appreciate. Overall, however, I was struck by the keen technical skill and intelligence of the selected artists.

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Second Floor Gallery at MACO

MACO’s facebook page will have details about hours, and current exhibitions. I will leave you with one last image – A photo by Kutztown University student Samantha Kahres of a tourist admiring Siempre Verde (Always Green) by Anja Gerecke in MACO’s back patio.

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Photo © 2016 Samantha Kahres

Printmaking at Taller La Chicharra, Oaxaca, 2015

Edith Chavez, center front, and Alan Altamarino, center back with KU students at Taller Chicharra.
Edith Chavez, center front, Alan Altamarino, at back & KU students at Taller Chicharra.

While ice storms hit the U.S. a group of Kutztown students spent 17 days of winter break in sunny Oaxaca, Mexico. We worked with a group of talented young printmakers in Taller La Chicharra (translates as the Cicada Studio).

Alan Altamarino  on press pulling a large scale print with Kevin McCloskey
Alan Altamarino on press pulling a large scale print with Kevin McCloskey.

Alan Altamarino, who also goes by MK Kabrito, runs the studio. He is a recent graduate of the School of Fine Arts at UABJO, Oaxaca. He specializes in large format relief prints. In the image above he carved MDF, multi-density fiberboard, to print a mega-print for his upcoming exhibition in Guadalajara.

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Nueva Vida, 2-color woodblock print by KU student Elaine Knox.

Printmaking studio classes were scheduled from 11-4, but at times the KU crew was still working happily as late as 10pm. Of course, they took a long dinner break around 3pm. Some brave souls sampled fried grasshoppers, a typical Oaxacan snack.

Pajaro Rojo, print, by KU Prof. Miles DeCoster
Pajaro Rojo, print, by KU Prof. Miles DeCoster

Each student created an edition of 15 black and white prints for a portfolio to exchange with their classmates. They also created a limited edition with a second color printed from a block of carved plywood.

Figura Prehispanica, detail, by Ashley Ridgway.
Figura Prehispanica, detail, by Ashley Ridgway.

We came as a group with a reservation, but Taller La Chicharra offers short classes for visitors throughout the year. Besides woodblock, they offer classes in serigraphy and engraving metal via electrolysis. Typically, courses are for half-days and last a week. The cost ranges from 500-1000 Mexican pesos, $40 to $80 U.S.

KU student Blake Myers sketching in the mountains of Mexico.
KU student Blake Myers sketching in the mountains of Mexico.

“Impressions From Oaxaca” prints from the KU workshop will be on exhibit at the Student Gallery, Sharadin Building, Feb 10-15.

KU students carving blocks at Chicharra.
KU students carving blocks at Chicharra. Photo: Miles DeCoster

We had time for trips to the Prehispanic ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla. A highlight was a journey to the petrified waterfall known as Heirve el Aqua.

Wolfgang and Brigid inking plates. Photo M.DeCoster
Wolfgang and Brigid inking plates. Photo: M.DeCoster

Muchas Gracias to Alan Altamarino, Edith Chavez, Marcus Lucero, Mariana Rivera, and all the wonderful Oaxacan artists who made our time in Mexico so memorable! Nos Vemos! See you again!

Oaxaca Sketchbook 2015

Blake Myer's sketch of Oaxaca Valley as seen from Monte Alban
Blake Myer’s sketch of Oaxaca Valley as seen from Monte Alban
The observatory at Monte Alban by Malia Balas
The observatory at Monte Alban by Malia Balas
Welcome reception at Hostal Don Nino.
Welcome reception at Hostal Don Nino.

The Hostel Don Nino gave us a welcoming reception of flautas, which are like fried enchiladas, guacamole, Oaxacan cheese and aqua de Jamaica. It is not easy to post from my ipad here, but I will share student drawings and post more when we return from our 17-day Oaxaca tour.

Mariana Rivera giving us a tour of the Opera House.
Mariana Rivera giving us a tour of the Opera House.
Rebekah, Ashley, and Jen sketching at San Pablo
Rebekah, Ashley, and Jen sketching at San Pablo

13 KU students and Prof. Miles Decoster are with me sketching in Oaxaca. In less than 36 hours we have seen the San Pablo Center, site of the first Spanish Settlement in the early 1500’s. Then we visited the ancient Zapotec site at Monte Alban, founded circa 500 B.C, it may have been the very first city in North America. It had 30,000 people at its height. We also visited the Macedonia Alcala Theater, a wonderful old opera house, where we were allowed on stage and on the roof. We met the ASARO printmaking collective, and the students are doing wonderful sketches.

We will be having an exhibition of our prints at the Student Gallery in Sharadin Feb 10-15.

 

OAXACA KU Study Abroad Winter 2015

Update: Kutztown U’s Oaxaca Course will be offered again. Tentative dates: Dec.27, 2015 to Jan.10 2016. Details in August. For a new non-credit 6-day (Jan 10-15, 2016) Oaxaca printmaking workshop see offering here via Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.

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Kutztown University is offering an affordable opportunity to study  in Oaxaca, Mexico with Prof. Kevin McCloskey. Oaxaca may the best place for a visitor to experience art in all Mexico. This beautiful colonial city is famed for its markets, street art, and printmaking studios.

Oaxaca Street scene, art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey
Oaxaca scene, street art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey

Students will experience many things they can’t do in Kutztown. For example: We’ll climb and sketch ancient pyramids. Visit a papermill that makes fine art paper from indigenous plants. Work with local artists. Drink spiced hot chocolate in the lobby of the chocolate hotel.

Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro,  Mexico
Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro, Mexico, 2008.

Located high in the mountains of Southern Mexico, January weather in Oaxaca is typically sunny with highs around 80°F

CDE 375: Drawing on Location in Oaxaca is a 3-credit Communication Design Elective. A hand’s-on course, students will complete a sketchbook documenting their personal response to the travel experience. Includes a 3-day relief printmaking workshop in a fully-equipped artist’s studio. Field trips to museums, markets and historical sites will provide immersion in the unique cultural traditions of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012
Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012

The cost?  For in-state (PA) undergrad tuition, airfare, shared accommodations, printmaking workshop, museum entries, and daily breakfasts should total approximately $2,400. Out-of-state students’ will be need to pay more. (Fees must be approved by KU council of Trustees.)

Young girl in one of Oaxaca's many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012
Young girl in one of Oaxaca’s many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012

Prof. Kevin McCloskey has been visiting Oaxaca for over 30 years. In 2007 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the visual arts of Oaxaca. He received a second NEH fellowship in 2011 to explore the visual culture of the Maya regions of the Yucatan and Belize.

Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.
Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.

He has written extensively about Mexican political prints. He has curated eight exhibitions of Mexican prints across the U.S, notably at the Fowler Museum, UCLA. In 2012, he was invited to Princeton University to lecture on Mexican prints at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies. Here are two of his recent  articles on the Oaxaca art scene, one at Project Bly, one at Printeresting.

Interested students can email for more info: mccloskey@kutztown.edu

SCOM: Man & Monsters in Mexico

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.

As 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 !”

“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.

Visit Printeresting for more on Maya Woman Printers.

My photos and story of my visit to Los Leñateros at printeresting.org
My photos and story of my visit to Los Leñateros at printeresting.org

Sometimes I get to write for Printeresting.org. It is a very cool site. In 2011 Printeresting won the Warhol Foundation’s Writers Grant in the blog category. I feel lucky when I get 100 visitors on a day to this blog, so I am delighted to write for the online journal, Printeresting. Jason Urban, one of the founding editors, is a Kutztown University Fine Arts grad. Though I’ve never met him, Jason is good enough to edit my work.

Click the link in line one, above, to see my story on Taller Leñateros, a women’s papermaking and print collective in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Founded in 1975 by poet Ambar Past, the collective now boasts nine members, mostly women of Maya ancestry.

I am blessed to be on sabbatical, researching and working in Mexican print studios. Here are a few photo out-takes from my visit to San Cristóbal.

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Woodblock prints on handmade paper by Los Leñateros.
The white building is Taller Leñateros.
The white building is Taller Leñateros.

Los Leñateros, which means wood-gatherers, use native plants in their paper making. Here Kari, a master bookbinder shows me the recycled bicycle they use to shred flower petals.

The stationary bike.
The stationary bike.
Maps printed offset, scored on an old Thayer and Chandler letterpress.
Maps printed offset, scored on an old Thayer and Chandler letterpress.

The see the whole story of this amazing print workshop click here.

Covarubbias, more than a Caricaturist.

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You never know where you might find an illustrator. Museo Textil de Oaxaca is a jewel of a museum in the center of Oaxaca. The current exhibition, Gráfica textil de Miguel Covarrubias, focuses on the work of the influential Mexican caricaturist. Born in Mexico City in 1905, Covarubbias journeyed to New York City at age 19, just in time for the Roaring 20’s. Handsome and talented, he must also have been quite charming. He drew in Harlem nightclubs, at gallery openings and private parties. Soon his work was appearing in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

20140119-100426.jpg The show at Museo de Textil focuses on his interest in textiles. He and his wife Rosa lived for a time in Bali, where they collected and documented the island’s weaving traditions. They returned to Mexico and moved to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca. His lithograph (top) shows Tehuana woman of the region washing in a stream. Covarubbias wrote and Illustrated the book Mexico South (1946) and noted similarities in the textiles of tropical Mexico and Bali. The line drawings above and below are from Mexico South.

20140119-101341.jpg Museo de Textil offers guided tours in English. The group I joined seemed most impressed by the huipile collected by Rosa Covarubbias that she lent to her friend Frida Kahlo, below.

20140119-104631.jpg To read more about the textiles of Covarrubias, an essay in Spanish by the curator Alejandro de Avila can be found here.

The textile show left me wanting to see more of Miguel Covarubbias’ work. Fortunately, the library at IAGO, the Instituto de Artes Graficos de Oaxaca, has a shelf full of books of his work. Below is a preliminary drawing he did in the 1924 for a visual essay titled, “The New Negro, a Distinct Type Created by the Colored Caberet in New York.”

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Personally, I find this drawing elegant and respectful. Some civil rights leaders considered his caricatures of negroes offensive. W.E.B. Dubois said, “I could exist quite happily if Covarubbias had never been born.” On the other hand, poet Langston Hughes considered Covarubbias a friend and visited him in Mexico.

Finally, here’s a trio of brilliant vintage caricatures by Covarubbias demontrating his mastery of line, paint, and wash techniques: Babe Ruth; Ernest Hemingway; and the photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

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