Would you like to see my etchings? A 50’s pop-cultural cliché that insinuates the seductiveness of fine art? Perhaps. Here in Oaxaca, contemporary fine art flourishes alongside traditional indigenous folk art. Galleries line the main avenues and offer extraordinary pieces for sale to collectors. In the support of the people who make art, I share my adventure with you.
On a shady, tree-lined stretch of Avenida Hidalgo between Calles Libres and Xicotencatl, about five blocks from the Zocalo, is the Taller de Grabado. Here, working with traditional printing equipment, Jesus Antonio Sanchez and his colleagues are printing etchings onto paper. The works are created by some of Oaxaca’s most famed artists, including studio owner artist Fernando Sandoval G.
I discovered this studio quite by serendipity. My destination was the Zocalo and I decided to take a different route. Setting out from Calle Libres near Murguia, I walked one block further to Hidalgo rather than making my usual right turn onto Independencia. What captured by attention through the open window was a man working at a traditional printing press, turning the wheel by hand. The light was beautiful. This was a great photo, I thought, and stuck my lens through the metal bars. Then, with the motion of his hand, he invited me in. Here I was in a world of art being created before my eyes. It was a delight and surprise.
The techniques they are using here are well-known in the art world: aquatint, dry point, serigraph, sugar lift, and wood cut. (In Spanish: punta seca, aguatinta, serigraphia, agua fuerte.) The artist creates his/her image on copper or zinc plates, on acrylic sheets or on wood. The printer then transforms these etchings onto paper, with the help of an acid bath, varnish and rosin. The strength of the etched image is based on the time in the acid bath.
To make a four-color print, the image requires four plates, one each of yellow, green, red, and brown. The overlay of color produces a wider color range, planned in advance by the artist.
The series of works made in the studio are numbered and signed, usually in editions of no more than 50 prints. Then, the plates are typically destroyed. When I noticed a pile of crumbled prints under the press, I asked what they were. Color tests, Jesus, who speaks a little English, replied.
Then, it occurred to me that they might also have a gallery here, too, where the work is offered for sale. And, indeed, it is. Jesus led me into a well-lit room away from the printing area where flat drawers were filled by beautiful pieces and the walls were covered in framed prints. The artists represented are Sergio Hernandez, Fernando Olivera, Fernando Sandoval, Eddie Martinez, and Ohioan Charlie Barth who also works in Oaxaca.
Prices range from about 1,500 pesos to 6,000 pesos. I’ve got my eye on one or two of these! Perhaps someday ….
Taller de Grabado, Fernando Sandoval G., Av. Hidalgo No. 1212, Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico, Tel. 951-516-5612, email firstname.lastname@example.org