La Calaca Press at the Art House Studios

ART EXHIBIT: “Calaca Press”

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 Barberena, 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.

Golden Moonlights
 “Golden Moonlights” Woodcut by Dani Triay.

Barberena 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.

  • What:“Calaca Press International Print Exchange”
  • Where: Art House Studios, 1009 Laurel, McAllen
  • When: Through October 28.  Hours: Mon-Thurs, 1-7pm; Sat, 9am-5pm.
  • Contact: Raquel Hinojosa, Art Director at 956-688-6461 or 956-309-8352.
Cupid's New Bow
“Cupid’s New Bow” Screenprint by Clay McGlamory.

Clay McGlamory offers a chilling new take on traditional imagery with “Cupids New Bow,” a four-color screenprint with enamel varnish. In this dark vision, a child stands holding an automatic weapon. A burst of light exposes a feathered wing.

Death Rattle
“Death Rattle” Litograph by Lisette Chavez.

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 Azuca
 “La Katrina de Azúca” Screenprint by Marwin Begaye.

“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.

Death and the Printmaker
 “Death and the Printmaker” Woodcut by Liv Rainy-Smith.

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.

José Guadalupe Posada
 “José Guadalupe Posada” Print by Linda Lucía Santana and Coco Rico.

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.

"Los Muertos" según Francisco Marco de Goya Hernandez
“Los Muertos” según Francisco Marco de Goya Hernandez by Marco Hernandez

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 nmoyer@rgv.rr.com

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About carlosbarberena

Carlos Barberena is a Nicaraguan self-taught Printmaker based in Chicago where he runs his printmaking project La Calaca Press. Barberena has exhibited individually in Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain and The USA. His work has been shown in important Art Fairs, Art Biennials, Museums, Galleries, Universities and Cultural Centers around the world, among them: the 7 International Printmaking Biennial of Douro at the Lamego Museum in Portugal; Printmaking In / In Graafika Fest at Linnagallerii, Parnu, Estonia; the IX Nicaraguan Visual Arts Biennial (IX BAVNIC) - Ortiz-Gurdián Foundation. “Recycling Memory: Recapturing the Lost City” curated by Omar López-Chahoud. PAC Museum, Managua, Nicaragua; Tartu Printmaking Fest 2014, Tartu Art House, Tartu, Estonia; LAPS 21, National Printmaking Biennial, CSUN Art Galleries, Northridge, CA; Pulso: Arte de las Américas, KCAD Fed Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI; “Santitos” curated by René Arceo, Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), Chicago; Hanal Pixan - Food for the Souls, curated by Dolores Mercado, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago; III Bronx Latin American Art Biennial, Bronx, New York; “Les Saltimbanques” an homage to Gustave Doré at the Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot - MARQ - in France, where his work was exhibited alongside Doré’s Masterpiece; III World Body Art Conference in Venezuela, Lia Bermudez Museum; V Biennial of Caribbean Dominican Republic, Museum of the Dominican Man; 8th Triennial - Mondial de L’Estampe et de la Gravure Originale in Chamalieres, France; 6th KIWA at the Kyoto Museum of Art in Japan; Takanabe Art Museum, Miyazaki, Japan; Latin American & Nicaraguan Printmaking, former Convent of San Francisco Museum, Granada, Nicaragua; 24 Grafiekbiennale Sint-Niklaas, International Exlibriscentrum, Stedelijke Musea, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium and the XIII Art Salon, Identity Imprint: A Glance at Ibero-American Printmaking at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, DC. He has received various awards, most notably the “National Printmaking Award 2012” given by the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture in Managua, Nicaragua and the award- poster for the Ecology and Human Rights in Banana Plantations in Costa Rica, given by GEBANA in Berlin, Germany. Barberena’s work is included in numerous public and private collections, including Ortíz-Gurdián Museum, León, Nicaragua; Douro Printmaking Biennial Collection, Museu do Gravura, Alijo, Portugal; Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), Chicago, USA; Artist Printmaker Research Collection, Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA; Special Collection, University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, USA; The National Gallery, San José, Costa Rica; Museum of Contemporary Art “Julio Cortazar”, Managua, Nicaragua; Permanent Art Collection of the Bibliotheca of Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt; Benedictine University, Lisle, Illinois; KIWA, Kyoto, Japan; the School of Fine Arts, (UNAM), Mexico; the Triennial Prints Cabinet, AMAC, France, the International Exlibriscentrum, Stedelijke Museum in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium; the Lia Bermudez Museum, Venezuela; Former Jesuit College Cultural Center, Patzcuaro, Mexico and Praxis Gallery of Nicaragua. www.carlosbarberena.com
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