Friday, February 28, 2014

Botswana's Playful Thamae Shesogo

Thama Setshogo a.k.a. Thamae b. 1970-2004, from the Ghanzi district, in Botswana. He is considered one of the most famous artists ever to come from Botswana. Thamae grew up on a farm near the Kalahari game reserve, where his parents worked as farm laborers. It was here that he developed an interest in nature and a love of animals.

Becoming an artist was nothing new to Thamae. It was always within him. He always loved to make beautiful things with his hands and loved to learn new ways of making things. Mostly, he worked directly from memory without any preliminary sketches. He loved to experiment with different art media. For him his art was the link between the past, the present and the future.
Although he never attained formal training, Thamae started to paint in the early 1990s at the Kuru Art Project. He became famous for his large black and white relief prints, and he explored lithography, making several prints at the Artists Press in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1999, he was one of four Kuru artists to take part in a print workshop at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He also attended several of the Thapong International Artists' workshops in Botswana and an international workshop in Australia. Today, his prints are much sought after.
His subject matter choices were simplified yet detail-oriented, and had a certain symmetry. He often chose his subjects from his childhood memories living on the farm.Subtle, elegant color combinations are a major feature of his work. His work reminds me in part of the imagery of Aborigine artists from Australia. The flattened out spaces, texture and decorative borders have structure to support and surround the subject. His playful subject’s faces are a delight and his joy in rendering them is apparent.
Tragically, Thamae died suddenly in 2004, leaving behind a wife and seven young children. The body of his work continues to be sold to help support his family. Any inquiries for his work can be directed to

For purchasing information please contact:
San Arts & Crafts
Telephone and Fax: (+267) 659 7242

For questions about the project, artists or art contact:
Kuru Art Project
P.O. Box 219
Telephone: (+267) 659 6102
Fax: (+267) 659 7703
1991 Most Promising Young Artist
1992 Award of Merit for drawing and painting, Artists of Botswana exhibitions
1993 Trophy of Honor, Graphica Creativa Exhibition, Jyvaskyla, Finland
1994 World Award Winners Gallery, Katowice, Poland and Ronneby, Sweden
1994 Intergrafia '94, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
1996 Graphica Creativa '96, Jyvaskyla, Finland
1997 commission relief wall panel, Princess Marina Hospital, Gaborone, Botswana
1997 mural, Return of the Moon exhibition, National Museum, Windhoek, Namibia
2003 SMTG International Print Triennial, Krakow, Poland

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Strong Arm of Arturo Garcia Bustos

I do love the ability of a print to grab one's attention, open one's eyes to events in the world and bring about some acknowledgement and change. Such is the work of Arturo Garcia Bustos. His dramatic and no nonsense works sear right into our hearts and let us see, as only one from inside a situation can, the depths of humanity and the trials of a burdened nation trying to free itself from under the slumbering giant keeping them subjugated. Garcia Bustos' prints speak to us today as eloquently as from the time of the Mexican Muralist period when these images were made. He talks about the noble, poor working classes, and poverty and their struggle to be an independent people. He talks about the injustices found in the Mexican government who, at the time, sought to keep literal and artistic voices silent through intimidation and pain from death squads (not unlike today's corrupted situation). Some of his work references other themes like the "Sower" straight out of Millet and van Gogh; planting the seeds of revolution. Other times we see, like one of the prints shown below, the ghost of Goya's "3rd of May" painting, where the innocent are systematically slaughtered. There is little of Garcia Bustos' work that isn't well-considered and measured in his graphic voice. The work is bold and bows down to no one. He is considered one of Mexico's greatest living printmakers and muralists. His devotion to teaching is unparalleled in a land where mentorship is keenly felt and continues to feed Mexico's strong artistic legacy. He is an inspiration to generations of printmakers here and abroad.
Arturo García Bustos was born in Mexico City in 1926. As a child, Garcia Bustos was drawn to art with the wave of Mexican Muralism sweeping the nation. He studied architecture at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria Núm 1 and then, at the age of fifteen, he went to study at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in 1941, UNAM, INBA and later at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura ("La Esmeralada")
One of his teachers was Frida Kahlo, with whom he went to study at her home in Coyoacan when she became too ill to go to the school. She affectionately called that group of students “Los Fridos”. He also worked as a mural painting apprentice with Diego Rivera. In the 1950s, Garcia Bustos took his first printmaking courses with Leopoldo Méndez at the Taller de Gráfica Popular, and then went to Korea and China to study Asian printmaking techniques.
Much of his career has been spent teaching and giving lectures, seminars and conferences. He taught engraving at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Guatemala City and founded the Taller de Grabado at the Casa del Lago in Chapultepec. He taught fine arts at the Escuela de Bellas Artes of the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, Escuela de Iniciación Artística Núm. 3 in Mexico City and drawing and painting workshops at the Casa del Lago in Chapultepec. He has given conferences on the history of engraving and lithography in Mexico at the state universities of Oaxaca and Sinaloa, the Galería Municipal de Veracruz and in various venues in Mexico City. Abroad, he has given conferences on Mexican muralism and engraving in Germany, Italy and Guatemala.
García Bustos’ social life was spent in the company of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, sharing their ideas on art and politics. It was there he met and married his future wife, Guatemalan artist Rina Lazo. Garcia Bustos and his wife curently live in Mexico City and have opened part of their house, calling it the Galería de la Casa Colorado. The couple’s daughter, Rina García Lazo, an architect specializing in monument restoration, runs the gallery.
He has had numerous exhibitions in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, North Korea, the Soviet Union, , the United States, Venezuela, and he participated in numerous exhibitions with the Taller de Gráfica Popular.

1947 assisted Frida Kahlo with a mural at the Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez House, Coyoacán
1948 Hotel Posada del Sol, Mexico City
1950 Escuela Rural de Temixco, Morelos
1952 Sociedad Cooperativa Ejidal, with Rina Lazo and Atilio Carrasco
1964 Pobledores de las Siete Regiones de Oaxaca, Museo Nacional de Antropología
1969 sixteen print murals, Venustiano Carranza House Museum in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila
1971 Casa de Obrero Mundial, Mexico City
Oaxaca en la historía de México, state government building, Oaxaca
Centro de la Cultura, Azcapotzalco, Mexico City
1947 first prize, UNAM
1949 second prize, poster contest honoring Chopin
1953 gold medal, Peace Movement, Guatemala
1954 first prize Grupo Saker-Ti, Guatemala
1955 first prize and gold medal , V Festival de la Juventud, Poland
1957 first prize, Salón Annual de Grabado, Salón de la Plástica Mexicana
1957 silver medal, engraving event, Moscow
1962 first prize, Consejo Nacional de Turismo, Mexico City
1973 member of the Academia de Artes
1974 member of the World Peace Council
1974 Salón de la Plástica Mexicana
1974 Mexican Academy of Arts

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Scratched Up and Raw: The Print World of Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann (1884 –1950) was a German artist most known for his expressive style in both painting and printmaking. He rejected association with the German Expressionists in favor of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), which was a movement deviating away from the deeply emotional aspects of Expressionism. What has always drawn me to Beckmann's print work is his passionate and raw line. His scratched, even ugly, lines are often counter-weighted against a delicate, almost tracery web which weaves his images together. There is intimacy between his lovers/characters, and then in a flip of reality we see his own deeply disturbed pain searing through us through his self-portrait series.
Max Beckmann was born into a middle-class family in Leipzig, Saxony, during the German Empire. He enrolled at the Weimar Academy of Arts in 1899 and, between 1903 and 1904, traveled to Paris, Geneva, and Florence. During WWI, Beckmann volunteered to work as a medical orderly. He served in Belgium, where he met fellow artist Erich Heckel. He was discharged in 1915 after suffering a nervous breakdown. In 1925 he was appointed professor to teach a master class at the Städelschule Academy of Fine Art in Frankfurt.
The successes of Beckmann’s early career changed once Adolf Hitler came into power. In 1933, the Nazi government labelled Beckmann a "cultural Bolshevik" and dismissed him from his teaching position in Frankfurt. In 1937 more than 500 of his works were confiscated from German museums, and several pieces were included in the now infamous Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich. That same year, Beckmann took his wife, left Germany, and lived a ten year self-imposed exile in Amsterdam.

After the war, Beckmann and his wife moved to the United States, and he taught art at Washington University in St. Louis. Beckmann then taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder, during the summer of 1949 and the following fall at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. He and his wife later moved to New York City where he died of a heart attack in 1950.

The trauma Beckmann experienced in the war moved his artwork away from most classical interpretations of the human figure to something distorted and fractured. His compositions became angled, broken and chaotic. There was no space to breathe or room to maneuver within. Ultimately, this scratched up distortion affected his view of himself, which can be easily seen in his featherly, yet raw-looking self-portraits.

Unlike several of his avant-garde contemporaries, Beckmann took up and advanced the tradition of figurative painting in a deeply personal form of modernism. He greatly admired the artwork of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Bosch, Bruegel and Grünewald. His composition style is also rooted in the tradition of medieval stained glass, the early renaissance idea of the triptych and he expanded them to include contemporary events.
Beckmann saw the world as a tragedy of man's inhumanity to man, and he saw life as a carnival of human folly. His work remained intense and allegorical throughout his career, but after the mid-1920s his style of painting changed to include Expressionistic brushwork and brighter colors. Some of his imagery refers to the decadent glamor of the Weimar Republic's cabaret culture, but from the 1930s on, his works often contain mythologized references to the brutalities of the Nazis. His subjects and symbols expressed universal themes of terror, redemption, and the mysteries of eternity and fate.

As for his printmaking, Beckmann made a total of 373 prints, all black and white, most of them produced between 1914 and 1923. He preferred etching and drypoint, but also worked in lithography; and he made woodcuts. Most of his prints were issued by leading dealer-publishers, including Paul Cassirer and J. B. Neumann, in Berlin, and Reinhard Piper, in Munich, although in 1921 Beckmann signed an exclusive contract with J. B. Neumann.
Like some of his art colleagues, Beckmann’s work falls within art movements, never clearly embracing one over another, so he, like the artists Oscar Kokoshka and Frida Kahlo, remain unique and outside normal categorization.
Lastly, the Parisian novelist and art historian, Stephan Reimertz, published Max Beckmann’s biography Eine Liebe im Porträt. Minna Tube - Künstlerin im Schatten von Max Beckmann,
Publ: Rowohlt Tb. 2002

Awards & Major exhibitions:
1912 First solo show, Kunstverein, Magdeburg, and Grossherzogliches Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, Weimar
1926 First show in the United States, J. B. Neumann’s New Art Circle, New York
1927 Honorary Empire Prize for German Art and the Gold Medal of the City of Düsseldorf
1928 Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim
1930 exhibitions in Basle and Zurich
1938 First of numerous exhibitions at Curt Valentin’s Buchholz Gallery, New York
1948 First retrospective in the United States, the City Art Museum, Saint Louis
1949 First prize in the exhibition Painting in the United States, the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
1964-65 Museum of Modern Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago
1984 Nassau County suburban art museum, NY
1995 Museum of Modern Art
1996 Guggenheim Museum
1996 Rome and Valencia
1997 Madrid
1998 Zurich
1998 St. Louis
2000 Munich
2006 Frankfurt
2007 Amsterdam
2002 Centre Pompidou, Paris
2003 Tate Modern
2011 Städel,Frankfurt

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Printmakers do the Olympics!

Yes, our printmaker legacy continues not only for political elections and holidays, but we have participated in the Olympics as well. This random selection of vintage and contemporary prints, commemorating the great achievements in global athletic competition, show an elegance, grace, speed and sheer will and determination to being the best - with a few abstract compositions thrown in for good measure. We have a lot to be proud of, showing the world this time honored printmaking form, and enjoying the fruits and toils of our athletes' labors. You will pardon my patriotism if I say Go Team USA!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Suleyman Tekan: Romancing Turkish Printmaking

As I have been on the search for printmakers, Süleyman Saim Tekcan popped into my radar. I was immediately taken with the physical quality of his work, the deeply etched surfaces, how calligraphy is intertwined with his images, and, of course, his use of color. They make for some very pleasing surfaces and make me wish I could read the calligraphy often found in his prints.
These images are irregular, rough-edged, not the standard printmaker format. The fragmented-ness of them leads me to think of them from an eastern (Asian painting) perspective where the viewer sees only that part of a composition that the artist chooses to be made visible. We know there is more beyond the edges of the print, and we look forward to seeing the next plate to see if we can pick up the story in the next image.
Tekcan's color is that lovely mixture of multiple printing and it revolves around his obvious love of horses. Horses to persons of the Middle east and Central Asia are symbolic of strength, speed and nobility. Tekcan's horses are more arabesque and linear than photographically rendered. They are a romantic illusion of the beautiful animal, crossing some mythic plane. The horses are surrounded by calligraphic text which when placed next to the steeds are an extension of the horse in motion. This symbol has been a part of art-making for centuries, from the time of the ancient Greeks, military leaders like Alexander the Great, the equestrian portraits of the Roman emperors, English kings and French Napoleonic despots.
The Arabian horses have been so intrinsically valued in the Middle east. Their beauty and sensitivity, intelligence and class of breeding is still highly prized. Who could not love those horses in the chariot races of the film classic "Ben Hur"?But, I digress....
Süleyman Saim Tekcan was born in 1940, on the southeastern edge of the Black Sea, in Trabzon, Turkey. He studied painting at the Ankara Gazi Education Institute and at the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts (Miamr Sinan University). In 1968, he became a teacher at Ataturk Education, and then in 1975 he went to teach art at Mimar Sinan University. Tekcan served as Chair of the Graphic Arts department and later became Dean of the Arts Program in 1994-1995. The next year, he went to become Dean of the Arts program at Yeditepe University and in 2007, he went to Isik University to serve as Dean of their faculty.
Tekcan has also conducted research on printmaking techniques in Germany and Sarajevo. He has also established the following printmaking studios:
Istanbul Atatürk Education Faculty’s Printmaking Studios
Istanbul Technical University’s Printmaking Studios
Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts Printmaking Studios
Çamlıca Original Printmaking Studio
2007 Königswinter City Artist Award
2006 Istanbul Rotary Club, 2005-2006 Profession Rewards
2006 Asia Prize, Marmara University, IMOGA, for the Foundation of Istanbul Museum of Graphic Arts
1993 Art Institution Artist of the Year Prize
1992 State Original Printmaking Exhibition Second Prize
1988 49th State Painting and Sculpture Exhibition Printmaking Third Prize
1986 Turkey Asia-Europe Biennial Prime Ministry Friendship and Peace Prize Silver Medal in Printmaking
1986 Bangladesh Asian Biennial Original Print Grand Prize
1985 Viking Paper Industries Printmaking Comp. Achievement Prize
1982 State Painting and Sculpture Museums Present Day Artists Print Prize
Tekan’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions in Austria, Belgium, China, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Turkey, the United States and Yugoslavia.
Web Site Email:

In 2006, one of Tekcan's major achievements was to co-found the Istanbul Museum of Graphic Arts. It is a place for exhibitions of local and international printmakers. For more information, please contact them at:
Address:Ünalan Mahallesi Keban Cad. No:20 Üsküdar 34700 İstanbul Turkey
Phone: 216-470 9292 Web: