Mexico City

La Ceiba Gráfica: Stamps of a Decade at Museo Nacional de la Estampa

On the outskirts of Coatepec—a small, foggy town, located in the forests of Veracruz and known for its coffee production—lies a former hacienda in the village of La Orduña. Built in the 16th century, this magnificent building currently fosters one of Mexico’s most interesting community printmaking centers, La Ceiba Gráfica, which was established in 2005. To commemorate the organization’s first decade, the Museo Nacional de la Estampa (National Printmaking Museum, MUNAE) presents a retrospective exhibition that highlights the history of La Ceiba Gráfica.

Patricia Córdoba. Coatepec I, 2011; lithograph. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

Patricia Córdoba. Coatepec I, 2011; lithograph. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

La Ceiba was founded through ­the vision of Swedish artist and researcher Per Anderson. After arriving in Veracruz in 1974, Anderson discovered that the high costs of equipment, tools, and materials hindered constant printmaking activity for the region’s artists and students. With his relentless creativity and with the help and expertise of locals, he designed presses and specialized furniture, using marble stones from Tatatila quarry, and produced lithographic inks and pencils, following the original recipes of lithography inventor Alois Senefelder. Anderson built the center upon a sustainable, decentralized, and horizontal model, in which students become teachers and are encouraged to propose new ideas and frameworks. Through the plurality of visions, La Ceiba’s community identity strengthens.

A Ceiba, in this case, is both a tropical tree and a model to follow: Its roots chose Veracruz as a home, but its branches and sprouts have spread worldwide. With a committed emphasis on artistic education, the center has disseminated printmaking as a valid and, moreover, renewing technique for contemporary art practices. The center’s geographic surroundings establish a slow, reflexive pace, which serves to enable questions about this way of producing art. Why should we keep traditional printmaking alive? Why place a printmaking center away from the big cities that often contribute to production, conservation, and education?

La Ceiba Gráfica's press. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

La Ceiba Gráfica’s press. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

Being in contact with the nature and community that hosts La Ceiba, a vivid conscience awakens and impregnates the works of the artists that collaborate in these workshops; with their prints, they settle new visual and thinking schemes, tied to a fresh recovery of the stamp tradition. The printmaking workshops at La Ceiba stand on interwoven practices that combine mastery of techniques with a deep sense of community and teamwork, as demonstrated in its retrospective exhibition.

Stamps of a Decade is curated by the two directors of the institutions involved, Santiago Pérez Garci of MUNAE and Rafael Ruiz of La Ceiba Gráfica. The exhibition is composed by a significant quantity of artworks that La Ceiba, through its local association, Artistas Veracruzanos Bajo la Ceiba, donated to MUNAE, in order to preserve La Ceiba’s contributions to the graphic and artistic circuit in the country. The show also includes works from La Ceiba Gráfica’s own collection. All of these pieces are iconic and narrate the center’s story.

The exhibition brings together works by established artists as well as emerging printmakers, while promoting a horizontal dialogue between generations. Stamps of a Decade features pieces by avant-garde and contemporary Mexican masters, such as Gilberto Aceves Navarro, José Luis Cuevas, Irma Palacios, and Demián Flores, and works by younger artists, like Lucía Prudencio and Daniel Berman.

Demián Flores. <i>Patria</i>, 2009 (edition 17 of 20); lithograph. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

Demián Flores. Patria, 2009; lithograph; edition 17 of 20. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

Lithographs by Per Anderson and Japanese stamps by artist Martín Vinaver (one of La Ceiba’s founders) welcome visitors. Their pieces are mostly figurative, including some portraits, which state the mastery and domain of their technique. Color: Gráfica Joven Veracruzana, a series of ten prints, show the aesthetic discoveries of younger artists, as they play with materials, colors, and topics to create atypical images, such as stamping leather shoes directly into the plate, to then transfer onto paper. For Litografía y Grabado en Color Desde la Ceiba, ten artists were invited to reflect and produce prints based on the CMYK color scheme, distinctive of offset and digital printing devices, vindicating the traditional printmaking practice in relation to new technologies.

The exhibition portrays the plurality under which artists are led—an effort that comes straight from La Ceiba’s director, Rafael Ruiz. Emerging Mexican artist Rodolfo Sousa remarks on the director’s approach: “Rafael taught me that printmaking didn’t have to be orthodox; to play with the traditional process implies breaking with the canonical ideas that have been circulating in the art history. To alter the plate in-between prints works as a metaphor on how we build our memory.”

Lucía Prudencio. Malinalli, 2015 (1/20); lithograph. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

Lucía Prudencio. Malinalli, 2015 (1/20); lithograph. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de la Estampa. Photo: Museo Nacional de la Estampa.

Stamps of a Decade is an open celebration of La Ceiba Gráfica, rejoicing in all of the community’s accomplishments and reviewing all the work produced under its mission. The exhibition reassures the importance and potential of printmaking in our current time. It is an opportunity to rethink the way we look at and conceive art, not only as a finalized result, but as a long durational process with many actors involved—a process that, with each print, works for a more sustainable and horizontal path toward new efforts and artistic means.

La Ceiba Gráfica: Stamps of a Decade is on view at the Museo Nacional de la Estampa in Mexico City through November 29, 2015.

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