VISUAL ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
Childhood’s End Gallery’s latest show is clearly different from their usual group show. Oaxaca to Washington is an exhibition of more than 30 prints by Mexican artists from the state of Oaxaca. Local artist Mimi Williams became friends with Mexican artist Edgar Martinez (not the baseball player), who now lives in Tumwater and was part of the artist collective The Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca, who connected her with a number of artists from Oaxaca. The end result was this show of prints chosen from more than 100 brought to Olympia by Martinez on a trip back home.
Williams says Oaxaca as a mecca for printmaking, and this exhibition provides ample proof that is so.
Much of the work in this show might appear strange to North American eyes, as the subject matter tends to reflect regional myths, legends, and religious and civic celebrations unique to Mexico. Stylistically it is highly graphic with stark contrasts and often dense crowding together of images. Many are in black and white, and when color is employed it tends to be a limited palette of primary colors and/or earth tones, often contrasting with large areas of black and white.
One notable picture is a print by Williams called “Fiat Lux.” It pictures a tourist aiming her camera. Behind her is a local scene with an archway and a tower. To her left is a framed picture of a print shop, presumably La Chicharra print shop where she attended an artist residency in September 2017. Everything is in bold patterns of black and white with the only color being a yellow wall and a green tree and the red dress on one of two women seen walking from the outdoor to the indoor sections of the picture. The “indoors” woman wears the red dress and her “outdoors” companion is in black and white, thus providing a clever transition between the two parts of the picture. This is a well thought-out and nicely designed print.
Another favorite is “La Trinidad” by Alberto Cruz, a strong black-and-white print depicting a sick wolf (or fox, dog or coyote) lying in bed surrounded by men wearing masks with their ribs showing through their skin. There is probably some locally recognizable story behind this, but we are not told the background; it is a powerful and disturbing image that is impossible to ignore.
Similarly powerful is “Sahumerio” by Ivan Bautista, which pictures a man and a woman, both of whom appear to be fearful or in pain. The main holds a candle, and the woman holds a cup. Steam and smoke rise from each in undulated swirls that match the swirls of their flowing hair. In the background are patterned and textured walls that reflect the shadows on their faces, which look like facial tattoos. It is all in black and white except for a few areas in the background that are a dull light blue. The contrasts between bold patterns and intricate lines are fascinating.
“Adelfa” by Alan Altamirano pictures a classically beautiful woman whose head, neck and hands call to mind Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” But instead of Botticelli’s Venus’s creamy white skin every inch of this beauty’s skin is covered with swirling lines and pictures that draw the viewer in as if looking into her body beneath the skin.
This is a wonderful show. It would be helpful if viewers could see wall labels explaining the stories behind many of these images.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
Oaxaca to Washington visual art exhibit
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through July 15
Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia