Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Visit the Enticements within Amsterdam's Graphic Atelier!

It's that time of year (especially we winter-bound Midwestern artists) when an inked up army of printmakers starts getting that itch to look for a new place to go 'get down' with a plate or stone for a week, month, summer, or a year. Now the Netherlands has its own rich history in art and printmaking, and there are any number of sights and entertainments to be found there. In Amsterdam (Red Light district aside), one can find and fall in love with this notable printshop, The Amsterdam Graphic Studio.  It  was founded in 1958 by graphic designer Harry Kruiningen and the then director of the Wereldbibliotheek, Jan G. Winterink. It is the oldest graphic workshop in the Netherlands, originally  for Amsterdam artists who could not afford their own studio facilities. It is a collective workshop designed for professional artists and designers, and now boasts a good following of local and international artists seeking solace with a plate or stone.

This workshop is distinguished for utilizing eco-friendly workhabits. Hazardous solvents are replaced with more environmentally safe materials, and for the production of photopolymer etching, there is a contact box and small darkroom available.

Etching Facilities include four etching presses of varying sizes; the largest of which is motorized. There are two acid baths and a mobile container for very large sizes. A metal cutter,  three ovens and two elevated tables are available. There is an aquatint box with resin powder.The Atelier also conducts workshops in traditional and digital media, press rental, facility rental and a respite from the world.

The workshop offers a variety of facilities, technology and expertise for artists to show their work to can 

produce and develop. The AGA encourages experimentation by exchange between different disciplines and between artists from different countries.
The Artist in Residence program  contributes to research and development of new work in the field of graphics (both traditional and digital techniques). National and international artists are invited to participate on the basis of their proposals.  The use of the presses, newspaper printing, cleaning and the ability to bite the sheets are included in the monthly price.(€ 550 per month)
To apply for consideration as an Artist in Residence,  please send  a recent CV and three images of recent work. Including your proposal and the type of project you wan to pursue while at AGA, (day / month / year subscription) of the preferred dates.

For more information mail to info @ Amsterdam graphic studio or call 020-6252186
It's a great place to work, meet new inky companions, and then on one's off-times go see some unusual sights in the city's district (you know which one),  sample the city's fine cuisine and drink,  experience historic Amsterdam and its neighboring cities.

The Amsterdam Graphic Studio is located in an old school building on Laurier Street, in the historical center of Amsterdam, in the Jordan.  It is advisable to use public transportation.
Amsterdam Graphic Studio
·         Laurierstraat 109 1016 PL Amsterdam
·         Tel: +31 (0) 20 6252186
·         Email:

Visiting hours

The AGA is open Monday to Friday 9.00 - 17.00. Saturday 10.00 - 17.00.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Namibia's Esteemed Printmaker, John Ndevasia Muafangejo

John Ndevasia Muafangejo's international reputation as Namibia's most famous printmaker began  in spite of a repressive apartheid situation in his native country, (known then as Rhodesia). Born in Angola in 1943, Muafangejo grew up in a traditional home, herding cattle by day,  and playing communal and literary games with the village elders at night. These games had a strong moral and philosophical overtone, which influenced his early childhood and his artistic development, but it also had a strong influence on  the content of his work which was largely autobiographical. 

Muafangejo was only twelve years old when his father died. His mother was left with nothing and she moved to a mission, bringing her son with her. It was here that Muafangejo converted to Christianity and in 1964 he attended St Mary's Anglican mission school at Odibo (in Namibia). There his artistic skills were recognized and he eventually went to study art at Rorke's Drift from (1968 -1969) before returning to teach and establish an art school at St Mary's. 

At the age of 25 his works were included in exhibitions in London, the 1972 São Paulo Biennial and  the National Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden.  His works then found their way into museums and galleries in Munich &  Berlin, Germany, Alvar Aalto Museum, Alvar Aalto, Finland, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, USA, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Great Britain, Grahamstown and Durban, South Africa and many other institutions. 

In 1971 he held his first of several solo exhibitions in Windhoek and represented South Africa at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1972.  In 1974 he took up at the position of artist-in-residence at Rorke's Drift, where he produced unique colored woodcuts. During the next several years, Muafangejo exhibtied his work in South Africa, New York, Finland, England and Germany.

In 1987, Muafangejo died at the peak of his career of a heart-attack, in Namibia. The next year, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, sponsored a retrospective exhibition of his work, and a second retrospective was held in England from 1990-1992. 

Muafangejo is best known for his linocuts of figures, religious and historical scenes. His images have a strong narrative quality and  illustrate African traditions. His images are all black and white prints, and upon his death left more than 5000 linoleum cuts – producing an astounding  single finished print (one/per day) for 20 years!

 In 1994, an art center in Windhoek was named in his honor.

Muafangejo's graphic motifs were taken from everyday life, history, from his immediate surroundings and the political atmosphere. Whatever the subject, his works are most memorable for their direct, clear subject, for their narrative foreground, and for being composed often around a very dramatic incident. 

The aim of his work was to show difficult conditions, and speak the truth about important events ,causes, people; to view Muafangejo's work as social/political, but they are really about telling truths and passing on cultural stories as one often sees in non-western cultures and African villages who pass their heritage verbally through public gatherings. Indeed, this man's complete oeuvre is staggering in its numbers, but his integrity to visually relate a story about what he saw and the tenacity to keep at it in spite of an oppressive society, is admirable. How many of us can do the same, or choose to do the same concerning issues that eat at our gut? I believe there is room in the artworld for more like Muafangejo, and hope more artists/printmakers will join his ranks.

1981: Republic Festival, Durban 
1983: International Graphic Competition, Frechen, Germany
1985: Stanswa Biennale, Windhoek (most outstanding artist).
1987: Vita Art Now Award 
1988: Standard Bank National Arts Festival (Guest Artist Award).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

'Estampas de La Raza' Exhibition Showcases Chicano Artists

In a couple of days (1/27/13) an important exhibition of  printmaking will close at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. I was fortunate to see the exhibit firsthand upon a recent trip to San Antonio, and this is a first class view of contemporary Mexican American and Latino printmakers dating from the 1960s to the present. It is part of a gift from longtime print collectors Ricardo and Harriet Romo. I will address the exhibition first, and then provide information about the Romos, who were instrumental to bringing this exhibition to the public.

Estampas de la Raza features more than 60 prints by 44 artists. The subject of these images crosses traditional Latino cultural practice with social, political and angst. The diversity images, and artists gives the viewer insight into a popular, yet still unknown aspect of Latino concerns. Popular images of Frida Kahlo, tattoos, and the Virgin of Guadalupe serve as a part of the exhibit, but also defining the exhibit are the more personal statements of the artists - self-portraits as icon-like gang-bangers or the Virgen de Guadalupe. 

Colorful, hand-drawn prints of women in bars, all dressed up and expectantly waiting a client, crying cocks with their throats cut, the Statue of Liberty rising above the faceless brown people parading before it as they strive for citizenship. 
All of it all together gives a pretty good idea of Chicano concerns, their interests in self-image and the image they portray to people other than themselves. Richard Duardo's quad portrait of Frida Kahlo is inspired, basing itself upon the Latino perspective of an Andy Warhol and popular cultural idol worship. 
More popularly known is Esther Hernandez' iconic Sun Mad Raisins image of a skeleton happily holding the insecticide-poisoned grapes acidly speaks volumes of the travails of this country's migrant workers and their fight for better working conditions.
The play of Disney's Mickey Mouse and a Posada-inspired sharp-shooter, as seen below, show another blending of cultural humor. 
All in all, this exhibition packs a wallop, and gives a vivid, candid and provocative voice to the artists' represented. I came away with a better appreciation for this loud and proud group of images and sincerely hope this exhibit will travel the country so more people will become familiar with this genre. 
About the collectors....Harriett and Ricardo Romo started to collect art when they were teaching in Southern California in the late 1960s. They felt collecting art from the Chicano community would help support the young artists and build their cultural community. They worked with and purchased much art from East LA's printshop, Self Help Graphics & Art. After returning to Texas, the Romos, sought to support Coronado Studio, a printshop located in Austin.

They said they were inspired to collect from the artists who they met on their travels to mexico and the artists they saw in southern California. For anyone to be in a position to collect art is a fine thing indeed, but the Romos decided this area of printmaking was under-recognized. Their commitment to collect more in this vein was based upon the strong visual messages of these artists, and the reinforcement they saw their collecting had to helping artists continue working. Their efforts have helped artists forge a path in this society that doesn't always recognize the merits or worth of an image to make an impact. The Romos understand this and thankfully they are continuing to bring art to the masses with their gifts and their sponsorship. An interview with the Romos can be seen at
To give a little biographical information about the Romos, Ricardo Romo is a native of San Antonio, having grown up on its west side. He attended the University of Texas at Austin , holds a master's degree from Loyola Marymount University and a PhD. from UCLA Romo is an urban historian and  author of "East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio". 
His achievements include:
George W. Bush appointed him in 2002 to the President's Board of Advisers on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 
Former Secretary of State Collin Powell appointed Romo in 2004 as a U.S. representative to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Romo received the Isabel la Catolica award, the highest award given to non-Spanish subjects, bestowed by King Juan Carlos of Spain, in 2007. 
He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Exes Alumni Association, in 2008.
He currently serves as the president of University of Texas at San Antonio, one of the fastest-growing colleges in the country.
Romo's wife, Harriett, is currently a sociology professor at UTSA. She also serves as director of the UTSA Mexico Center and the Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI). 

The Romos' private art collection includes works by Luis Jimenez, Carmen Lomas Garza, Cesar Martinez and Vincent Valdez, as well as print suites from Self Help Graphics and Coronado Studio. Due to the Romos' generosity, the McNay Art Museum is now known for having one of the best print collections of Chicano and Latino artists to be found anywhere.

A catalogue of the Estampas de la Raza exhibition is available through Amazon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Printakers Will Descend upon Milwaukee in March 2013 for SGCI Annual Conferece

You know it's always a great thing when packs of printmakers gather, and ink and paper are involved. Such will be the case when the Southern Graphics Council International print organization holds its annual conference. This year, it will be in the northerly city of Milwaukee and will be hosted by the well-respected Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design( MIAD) and the Peck School of Art. 
Go to and it will give you all the information on the conference, who's showing, who's talking, and who's who. You can also find information on accommodations, but the town is an amazing place for art, architecture, and a plethora of eateries and taverns for carousing printmakers to meet, talk shop, trade and buy some great art, boast their achievements, and generally be ornery. Hope to see you all there!

Register now!

Please contact Jessica Meuninck-Ganger & Rina Yoon, Conference Co-Chairs, with any questions not answered on this website at

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Expressive Jaroslav Vodrazka - from the Czech Republic

I recently came across this artist's work while on a search for eastern European printmakers, and I felt compelled to share this artist's story and his work....  

Czech artist Jaroslav Vodrazka lived during several chaotic upheavals in eastern Europe in the 20th c. He was born in Prague in 1894 during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Surviving the period of peace between the two World Wars was short-lived, however, once the Nazis invaded and occupied Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Further, their endurance of the Soviet forces which separated the eastern block countries from the west placed an enormous hardship upon countless artists and creative individuals. Those artists that didn't lose their minds or limbs from military service, or lost their creative inspiration from years of oppression, dug in their heels and entrenched themselves for the duration; finding precious small pockets of time to produce their artwork, usually in secret or on the side from their other 'government-sanctioned' art.

The early part of the 20th c. saw numerous eastern European artists working under these terrible conditions. They were often called 'internal emigrees', and during the day while at their jobs, they did what they were told. They also fought an artistic 'war' of their own while they struggled to keep creative and produce artwork in virtual seclusion. The penalties for intelligence and enlightened minds was severe and swift. You see, the Nazis were not known for their sympathies for visionary artists or any non-ultra realistic imagery.

Religious themes, like Christ's portrait above,  were important to Vodrazka. The artist kept a painting of St. Vaclav, the Czech national patron saint, in his own personal library with other examples of inspiration, like a collection of printmakers Rembrandt, Durer and
Schongauer.  Vodrazka's survivning sketchbooks are full of proposals for never-realized projects about stained glass windows and church sanctuaries. 
Vodrazka was the son of a miller who married a baker’s daughter. Their family ran a bakery in Prague. The young boy showed artistic promise at an early age, drawing on sidewalks and the margins of newspapers. He studied art The School for the Applied Arts, where he studied printmaking. Soon afterward he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I, where he sketched and made watercolors, even while serving on the Italian Alpine front. A Czechoslovak state was formed after the war and Vodrazka became a professor of printmaking and graphic arts. In 1923, he went to work with Svaty Martin in Slovakia, where he spent the next 16 years doing book design and typography in the previously suppressed Slovak language,(which occurred during Hungarian rule.)
On the eve of World War II, Vodrazka left his position in Slovakia and returned with his family to Prague, even though it was a Nazi-run Protectorate. While there, he settled into a life of teaching, book illustration, and print-making. He produced wood engravings, linocuts, etchings, engravings, and lithographs, and was always interested in exploring new printmaking techniques, using materials such as plastic and plexiglass.
From 1939 he and his wife, Ella, a writer-poet,and their son, Jaroslav, who became a noted
musician in classical organ and professor of music, lived quietly in a place of refuge on the West Bank of the Vltava River in Prague with a view of the spires of St. Vitus Cathedral, an image frequently seen in his etchings.
Vodrázka always remained rooted in figurative art, creating images of peasants, landscapes, and religious scenes. His real passion was for intimate, small-format prints and ex-libris book plates, commissioned by collectors who wanted special subjects, symbols, and scenes incorporated into these miniature graphics.
Unfortunately, Vodrazka did not live long enough to see the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. He died five years before the 1989 Velvet Revolution routed the Communists out of power in his beloved Czechoslovakia. However, the vitality and creative spirit is still evident in these prints discussed today. It is admirable that artists can work under what we western artists consider to be difficult conditions. In truth, it was just their way of life, and Vodrazka was able to teach and produce artwork even in this restricted society. His work has a beauty and depth of emotion as seen in the portraits. His respect for religious subjects is evident, and references to other western artists such as Goya, Rembrandt, Durer and even van Gogh shine through his own lines and compostitions. I was excited to find this artist's work, and hope more people will explore his oeuvre.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pablo O'Higgins' Unique Trail in US/Mexican Printmaking

Pablo Esteban O'Higgins (born Paul Higgins Stevenson ,1904 - 1983) was an American-Mexican artist, illustrator and a blond-haired, blue-eyed Presbyterian  who became a celebrated Mexican muralist. He  was born in Salt lake City, UT and was raised between there and San Diego, CA. His father was a lawyer of blue-blood 'English of Mayflower' descent, and his mother  was a refined upper-middle class housewife. He had one grandfather who was Scots-Irish, who died before Pablo (then Paul Higgins) was born.  In 1922, he went to study at the Academy of Arts in San Diego, but soon afterward he became a student of and assistant to the famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Rivera said if he ever had a son, he’d wanted him to be like O’Higgins. 
O'Higgins was so taken with Mexican culture from an early age when he lived on his father's rach in California. It was there that he met and became acquainted with the Mexican workers. As for their politics, that came in 1924 when after moving to Mexico permanently, he joined his mentor Rivera and became a member of the Mexican Communist Party (which he remained a member until 1947.)

From 1928-1930 Pablo O'Higgins worked on Cultural Missions in Durango, Hidalgo, Veracruz, and Zacatecas.  In 1930, he co-published, with Jean Charlot and Frances Toor, Las obras de José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican engraver. In 1931 O'Higgins founded, together with Leopoldo Méndez and Juan de la Cabada, the Proletarian Intellectual League.  He also contributed illustrations to the newspaper of the USA Communist Party, called the Daily Worker.  

1933 was a busy year for O'Higgins. He was teaching drawing in primary schools. His illustrations won him a Soviet scholarship to go to Moscow to study at their Academy of ArtHe also contributed artwork to Mexican Folkways magazine, and he co-founded the Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists, LEAR). 

One of O'Higgins' major contributions to printmaking came In 1937, when he joined with fellow artists Leopoldo Méndez and Luis Arenal  and became co-founder of the world-famous political graphic arts workshop, Taller de Gráfica Popular ("People's Graphic Workshop"). The Taller became an inspiration to many politically-motivated artists and  a place for artists to speak their minds, so much so that it became a major forum for political artwork in Mexico.  Recently the Taller was commemorated with a publication and a tour of some of the artists' works  by some of the artists associated with the Taller... O’Higgins educational and printmaking contributions continued when he worked with San Francisco artists Byron Randall, Victor Arnautoff, and Adelyne Cross Erikson establish a graphic arts workshop in 1947. With seemingly endless energy, in 1947, he worked with Los Angeles printmakers Jules Heller and Arnold Mesches to establish the Los Angeles Graphic Arts Workshop, which was the predesessor of the now famous Tamarind Institute in New Mexico. O'Higgins also taught at the California Labor School in San Francisco in 1945 & 1949, and in 1948 he and Xavier Guerrero founded the Sociedad para el Impulso de las Artes Plásticas, and the Salón de Plástica Mexicana in 1949. 

Joining the National Assembly of Artists in 1952, O'Higgins exhibited his paintings at the Salón de Plástica Mexicana. In the late 1960s he traveled and taught mural painting courses in Russia and Eastern Europe. 

A side note *O'Higgins once followed Tina Modotti, the radical photographer, to Russia. In the 1950s, he was placed on the U.S. attorney general’s blacklist, and on a Mexican Govt. deportation list . Being from a well-to-do Anglo-American family, he kept quiet about his father’s 1915 involvement as an assistant attorney general in the  execution  of Utah miner and labor martyr Joe Hill. In 1959 Pablo O'Higgins married María de Jesús de la Fuente Casas, a lawyer from Monterrey , Nuevo León. 

O’Higgins is admired not only for his art but also for his love of Mexico and his determination to bridge the two countries and their cultures through art. O'Higgins painted the people he respected… the ordinary, hard-working Mexican campesinos and workers whom he respected as the “Real Mexicans”. His subject was their struggle for dignity. O'Higgins will be remembered for his desire to bridge the two cultures he loved, and for promoting the arts with  so many worthwhile organizations.

Particular noteworthy is that O'Higgins'portrait is included in a mural in Chicano Park, in San Diego County, the largest collection of Chicano murals in the U.S. He appears next to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso,  Che Guevara, and the Virgin of Guadalupe. 

Awards and Exhibitions:
San Francisco at the Art Center Gallery, 1925 and 1927 
John Levy Gallery,1931,
Gallery of Mexican Arts
Association of American Artists, 1943
Burial with honors at the El Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
First prize, Salón Anual de Pintura, Grabado y Escultura of the INBA , 1959
Elías Sourausky Award in Arts, 1971 
He also exhibited in Cuba, Spain, Los Angeles and Mexico. 
He was the only non-native Mexican artist whose work was included in the first major exhibit of Mexican art held in the United States at the MOMA's,"Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art" ,New York, 1940.

Ship Scalers Union, Seattle, WA, 1945
International Longshoremen’s & Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) in Honolulu, HI, 1952. 
and a dozen others in Mexico