ART EXHIBIT: 'Calaca Press' [McAllen, through Oct. 28]October 19, 2011 3:38 PMNancy Moyer
It’s the time of year for South Texas artists to bring out the Calaveras, and Art House Studios has done it with style and freshness. “Calaca Press International Print Exchange” completely fills the three gallery spaces and features one hundred-forty small, original prints.
Nicaraguan printmaker, Carlos Barbarena, who has established his Calaca Press in Chicago, organized the exhibit. Having conceived of the idea of bringing international printmakers together, he put out a call for submissions on Facebook. The word spread from there, attracting prints from three hundred printmakers and representing nineteen countries.
“Barbarena wanted to do a show on Calacas, which is the folklore of Aztec and Mexico mixed, ” explained Reynaldo Santiago, Art House Studios’ Curator. “It’s not quite a day of the dead... the other countries and the U.S. Midwest, they don’t have a Day of the Dead, but they interpret what Calacas means in their own terms and their own culture. So that’s what we have here.”
The prints overwhelmingly depict Calaveras; some pick up on Día de los Muertos symbolism, while others are comfortably European in their stylistic referencing. Others are refreshingly non-referential.
Another print with strong, but unnerving content is “Death Rattle” by Lisette Chavez. The child's toy is shown with a skull as the rattle. There is no humor here.
“La Katrina de Azucar,” a screenprint by Marwin Begaye, uses the traditional festive Katrina image to deftly combine both humor and biting social commentary. Jauntily clustered atop the Katrina’s flowered and feathered hat nestles much of the fast food that will ultimately kill us.
A centrally placed coca-cola bottle displays the words, Enjoy Obesity, as its logo.
Liv Rainy-Smith’s woodcut, “Death and the Printmaker,” feels more European in its conceptual origin. Although the style is contemporary, the interplay of the printmaker dancing with a Calavera (death) is more reminiscent of Northern Renaissance printmaking.
Some artists pay homage to the Masters. “Jose Guadalupe Posada” by Linda Lucia Santana and Coco Rico, and “’Los Muertos’ según Francisco Marco de Goya Hernández” by Marco Hernandez, both present excellent realistic portraiture alongside imagery referencing the Masters’ styles.
The strength of this show lies not only in the quality of its prints, but also in the diversity of printmaking techniques. Fine woodcuts, lithographs, etchings, mezzotints, screenprints, and even a solar plate print are notable. This particular selection of prints weighs heavily in favor of a spread of U.S. artists. According to Santiago, the rest of the “Calaca Press International Print Exchange” collection will be shown in 2012. Perusing these prints is definitely time well spent.
Nancy Moyer, Professor Emerita of Art from UTPA, is an art critic for The Monitor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org