Tag Archives: art

Forgotten Murals of Abelardo Rodriguez Market, Mexico City

The fresco murals painted by Diego Rivera‘s disciples on the walls of the Abelardo Rodriguez Market in Mexico City are a historic art treasure at risk. Most on the first floor are deteriorating, peeling, fading, etched by attempts of graffiti at knife point, hidden by stalls, storage areas and obscured by dust.  Yet, they are a must-see.

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The disciples of Rivera came to Mexico City to learn from the master.  Many were political idealists from the United States like Pablo O’Higgins who later became a Mexican citizen, the Greenwood Sisters — Marion and Grace, and Isamu Noguchi.

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The murals are a backdrop to a bustling city market where vendors sell mostly everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, poultry, dairy products and household goods. There are comedors and juice stalls. Pull up a seat.

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Be greeted by giggling pre-teen girls who are on vacation this week from school and are tasked with babysitting while their parents tend the stalls. Yes, they are on Facebook. And, yes, I shared this photo with them.

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Pull up a seat to order a chicken taco or hot pozole. Most barely notice, if at all, the frescos that were painted in 1936. This was a time of political discontent, growing fascism, and the crisis of a worldwide economic depression.

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Naguchi mural is a bas relief sculpture

Then as now, Mexico City was an international hub for artistic expression and the Big Three — Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco attracted young artists who wanted to take part in the Mexican Muralist Movement, born from a strong tradition in the graphic arts and especially the work of Jose Guadalupe Posada.

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Marion Greenwood paints the second floor stairwell at the back of the market

Today, we are on an art history quest, Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, accompanied by an art historian who knows her stuff!

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Today, we went to the Abelardo Rodriguez Market, but not before first visiting the Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP) and Colegio de San Ildefonso, where we saw the earliest frescoes of Rivera, Siquieros and Orozco.

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My friends Cindy and Chris are with me on this art history adventure. I stayed with Chris and her husband Jeff after my knee replacement surgery in North Carolina last November. This is Chris’ first trip to Mexico.  Cindy came to Oaxaca seven years ago but has never been in Mexico City before. Today we walked almost 12,000 steps according to my FitBit.

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The muralists took risks. Their work was political commentary and a call for change: better health care, equal rights for women, a fair wage for workers with better working conditions, elimination of exploitation and a social system that provides food and shelter for families. They foreshadowed World War II in their work.

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And in honor of Chris’ new favorite food, huitlacoche, I post the following photo:

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Huitlacoche, corn fungus at its finest!

If you are interested in bringing a small group of friends to Mexico City for this art history tour, please contact me.

 

 

Mexican Impressions: Oaxaca Printmaking Workshop

Sunday to Friday, January 10-15, 2016, 6 workshop days. Starts Sunday morning and ends Friday evening with a gallery show and reception. Anyone with an interest, including beginners as well as emerging and established artists who want to build their portfolio and add a gallery show to their resume, is welcome. $995 per person.

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Oaxaca is a vibrant center for the arts with a rich tradition in the graphic arts. There are more than 20 active printmaking studios here and many more galleries where artists and their work are featured. We invite you to learn more about Oaxaca’s graphic arts scene and take part in an in-depth, hands-on workshop to apply the printmaking traditions of Oaxaca and Mexico. You will make your own carved relief prints using wood and multi-density fiber board (MDF), professional carving tools and a traditional press.

Who Should Attend: Anyone with an arts interest, emerging and established artists, and mixed media artists will want to incorporate this medium into their work.

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Your Workshop Leaders: THREE Amazing Professionals

Complete instructor bios are included below.

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Before we go to work in the studio on Monday, we take you on Sunday to museums, markets and Monte Alban archeological site to examine historical objects, fine art and popular crafts. Take a closer look at indigenous and vernacular design motifs, then use your sketchbook and/or camera to record your impressions and create a starting point from which to develop your relief print – an impression of Mexico.

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Our workshop is held at a fully equipped graphic arts studio located in the historic center of Oaxaca. During the course, you will make an artist’s proof and a small edition of six or more 18″x 24″ black and white prints. Then, you will carve an additional block to introduce color into the print. This is called a two-plate relief system.

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To ensure a quality hands-on experience, this workshop is limited to 10 participants.

During the week, you will receive group and individualized instruction, coaching, constructive feedback and review. Our final day will culminate in a gallery opening and reception with a group exhibition open to the public. You are welcome to invite guests.

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Before the workshop begins, we will send you suggested readings and materials to prepare you, including essays on the artwork of printmakers Jose Guadalupe Posada, the Taller Grafica Popular and artists currently working in Oaxaca. Our packet includes travel and packing tips, restaurants, shopping guide and more!

  • Sunday: Starts 10 a.m. with field trips to Monte Alban, markets and museums (shared taxis to/from Monte Alban)
  • Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Studio workshop time with lunch break) to develop designs, carve and print.
  • Friday Evening: Gala reception and Gallery Exhibition.

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About Kevin McCloskey

Kevin McCloskey, professor of Communication Design, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, 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 has written extensively about Mexican political prints and has curated eight exhibitions of Mexican prints across the U.S, notably at the Fowler Museum, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2012, he was invited to Princeton University to lecture on Mexican prints at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies.

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McCloskey holds an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts, New York. His humorous illustrations have appeared in magazines and newspapers, including the Village Voice, New York Times, New York Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer. His prints and illustrations have been exhibited widely and his has published numerous books.

Articles on the Oaxaca art scene by Kevin McCloskey:

About Miles DeCoster

While Miles DeCoster teaches interactive design in the Communications Design Department at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, he is also a painter, photographer, printmaker, book artist, web artist and designer. He received formal training at the Washington University School of Fine Arts in St. Louis (BFA 1972) and the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA 1979). His work is in numerous collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the California Museum of Photography, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Washington University Rare Books and Special Collections and private collections.

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DeCoster has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, Post-Newsweek Stations, Nexus Press and the Chicago Arts Council. His studio is at the GoggleWorks arts center in Reading, PA, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the USA. His work is included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Walker, and many regional exhibitions.

As a professional designer, DeCoster served as art director for In These Times, a national news magazine published in Chicago, from 1983 to 1993, and has designed many print projects and web sites for clients including the American Heart Association, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Freedman Gallery at Albright College, Harcros Pigments, Trattoria Mario in Florence, FESTA, First Books, Yellow Press and others.

About Alan Altamirano

Printmaker/artist Alan Altamirano is one of Oaxaca’s young, up-and-coming artists whose work is collected around the world. His professional nickname is MK Kabrito! You will have to ask him what that means.

Alan is the founder of Taller de Grafica La Chicharra in Oaxaca, Mexico. He attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca (UABJO) and graduated in 2010 in fine and visual arts.

10848710_10206212116119828_1018688424988371677_oAlan has studied with noted printmakers Shinzaburo Takeda, Suzanne Simpson, Tamana Araki, Per Anderson, Raul Herrera. He his work is recognized and exhibited in Mexico, Spain, Italy, The United States of America, Rumania, Brazil and Argentina.

His resume includes a long list of expositions and seasoned printmakers recognize Alan as an important contributor to the Oaxaca art scene. At the end of March 2015, Alan traveled to University of California at Davis where he had an exposition of his work and gave a week-long printmaking workshop. He was in California for three weeks to explore the printmaking and contemporary art scene in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The workshop includes

  • all instruction, coaching and review sessions
  • personal attention from three practicing, exhibited artists who are also expert teachers,
  • all printmaking materials (except sketchbook, pencils)
  • dedicated use of a professional graphic arts studio
  • gallery exhibition of group work at the end of the week

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The workshop does not include airfare, lodging and meals, taxis and admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, tips, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals. When you register, we will send you a list of suggested hotels and B&Bs.

About Suggested Accommodations: We are based in Oaxaca city for this workshop. To keep this workshop affordable, we are not including lodging and meals. We will suggest a range of hotels and B&B’s where you may choose to stay, complete with contact information and estimated pricing. You can also check TripAdvisor and BookingDotCom or other online agencies for best prices. All reservations for lodging are to be made and paid for by you directly with the hotel. You are free to choose any accommodation you prefer, from luxury to basic hostel. We will send you a list of recommended hotels after you register and make your deposit.

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Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before November 1, 2015. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After November 1, 2015, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before November 1, 2015, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

International Travel Insurance Required. We require that you take out trip cancellation, baggage loss and at least $50,000 of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We will ask for documentation. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, email us at oaxacaculture@me.com We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

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Ready to register? Send us an email and we’ll send you an invoice to make your $550 deposit. This guarantees your space.

Chiapas Textile Museum: Maya Art on Cloth

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The contemporary Maya world spans political boundaries and crosses southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and El Salvador. Here in Chiapas there is a rich textile tradition that endures as cultural identity and pride. The Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya, The Textile Center of the Maya World, is the place to begin to see the finest examples of woven and embroidered cloth coming from throughout the Maya world.

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No one comes to San Cristobal de Las Casas without buying at least one piece of handwoven cloth! We advise you come here first before you shop. That way, you will be able compare quality and price after seeing the hundreds of fine textiles on display in the museum, and then making a stop at the adjoining Sna Jolobil gallery where deep pockets help.

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We were told that eighty percent of the items for sale in the Santo Domingo Church market are made by machine or imported from China. The market fills the entry area to the textile museum so the temptation is strong to forage first.

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Yesterday, as I wandered this market, I did find a beautiful back strap loomed and embroidered huipil from Cancuc for about $70USD and two incredible Chenalho short blusas, also hand loomed and embroidered, for $18USD each. So, there are still bargains to be found of authentic garments if you know what you are looking for.

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At the textile museum, the group from Penland School of Crafts had a private tour of the collection in English complete with an introductory video in English, too.  We began to identify the designs of the cloth and embroidery with the villages where they are made.  We saw the evolution of garment design with the introduction of Spanish lace and off-the-shoulder style. Many of those on exhibit are Guatemalan pieces since the cultural border is porous.

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The detail work on the cloth is precise. The embroidery is exact. We sat down to a work table to create an embroidery sampler in the style of San Andres Larrainzar to better understand the textile making process.  Needless to say, none of us was good enough to go into business.

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One of us tried his hand at the back strap loom, and he managed to use the sheep bone pick with some ability to push back each weft thread to make a clean straight line.  Then, with some heft and force, he used the shuttle to add to the tight piece of cloth.  It takes three months, working five hours a day, to make a twenty-four inch wide traditional ceremonial sash, which was on the loom today.

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Around the world, machinery and technology is replacing hand work. Mechanization creates precision and lower cost.  What we lose is the beauty and variegation that is transmitted by the soul of the maker. This visit gave us a greater appreciation for indigenous culture, the beauty they create.

We organize small group workshop study tours for up to 10 people. If you and a group of friends or your organization wants a customized learning experience, please contact me.

 

Zinacantan Textile Flowers, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

They speak Tzotzil here in the Maya highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.  San Lorenzo Zinacantan is a village nestled in a beautiful valley about thirty minutes from San San Cristobal de Las Casas.  It is a popular Sunday tourist destination combined with a visit to the mystical church at San Juan Chamula (which I will write about in another post), just ten minutes apart.

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Zinacantan people yielded to the Spanish during the conquest.  They enjoyed more favors and received fertile land in exchange for their loyalty. Today, the Zinacantan hillside is dotted with greenhouses where flowers grow in abundance to decorate church and home altars, and are a key part of festivals.

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The village replicates these flowers in their embroidery that embellish cloth created on back strap looms.  Over the years we have seen the patterns change from simple red and white striped cloth to sparkly textiles that incorporate synthetic glitzy threads of gold and silver.  Much of the embroidery is now machine stitched, though the designs are guided by expert hands.

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I’ve been coming to San Cristobal de Las Casas for years searching for a chal embroidered by hand to no avail. This time, Patrick, our guide took us to the home of Antonia, one of Zinacantan’s most accomplished weavers and embroiderers.  Among the hundred chals (shawl or tzute) available for purchase, I found a blue one all hand embroidered. Technology is winning out over the made by hand ethos.

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Identity is defined externally by the indigenous garment.  Some say the Spanish imposed this upon local people in order to know where they came from and to keep them in their place. Others say the design of the garment endures because of cultural pride.  The young woman above is from the village of Chenalho.  I can tell because of the design of her beautiful huipil.

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She is the tortilla maker at Antonia’s home, who keeps the fire going, makes us a fresh quesadilla of local cheese, cured chorizo, avocado and homemade salsa to remember the visit. Food is memory, too.

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Nothing is wasted, not even the smoke. It curls up from the comal to cure the meats that hang above it. The corn is criollo, locally grown and ground by hand, pure and wholesome. Here in the shadowy adobe kitchen there is magic.

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It is impossible to take photographs inside the church at Zinacantan. It is forbidden and cameras can be confiscated if you are found to violate this. Can you imagine a church altar spilling over with flowers from ceiling to floor, fresh, with an aroma of lilies, roses, gardenias and lilacs. The swirl of scent is like an infusion of incense, designed perhaps to bring one closer to god.

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I organized this art and archeology study tour for Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.  If you have a small group interested in coming to Oaxaca or Chiapas, please contact me.  I have over 35 years experience organizing award-winning educational programs for some of America’s most respected universities.

Indigo Dye Workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Making a shibori scarf using indigo dye was a highlight of the Penland School of Crafts visit to Oaxaca.

Penland Indigo WorkshopWe settled into the workshop studio of the Chavez Santiago family to hear about the planting, cultivation and preparation of indigo on the coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.

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Some people called it tie dye, but we know better since the technique was originally developed in Japan.  Lots of ways to make designs and patterns in the cloth that will resist the dye that coats its surface. PenlandBest91-60

It is a long seven month process to grow the indigo plant.  It needs the right soil and climate plus the knowledge of how to extract the blue color from the plant so that it becomes a stable and strong dye.

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The Museo Textil de Oaxaca now has an excellent exhibit and video that explains the fermentation, dye extraction and drying process.  What you end up with is a hard chunk of material that looks like coal.  It’s then ground into a powder and carefully added to a water bath so that the oxygen molecules are not activated.

PenlandBest91-56After we use rubber bands, string, marbles, beans, nuts, and just simple folding to create the pattern, we tie a string to the cotton cloth to submerge it gently into the dye bath.  It stays there for about twenty minutes.  Those who used the folding technique wrapped their cloth around styrofoam cylinders.

PenlandBest91-58 PenlandBest91-65 PenlandBest91-51 I work with local experts and guides to put together an unusual and intimate view of Oaxaca, her art, food and culture. I am not a tour guide but an expert at award-winning university program development. If you organization has interest in a program such as this one, please contact me.

PenlandBest91-69 PenlandBest91-64Art making in Oaxaca comes in many forms and varieties.  Making indigo scarves is just one way to participate hands-on in all that Oaxaca has to offer.

PenlandBest91-71 PenlandBest91-68 PenlandBest91-62At the end of the workshop we enjoyed a tapestry weaving demonstration with Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas who operate Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city. Its amazing to see how they color all their wool with natural dyes and use the color together to make extraordinary, vibrant carpets.

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