The art exhibit Estampas de la Raza: Contemporary Prints from the Romo Collection has now crisscrossed the nation recently traveling from New Jersey and Delaware on the East Coast to Sacramento, California on the West Coast and arriving this past December in the Deep South in Atlanta. Ten years ago, after it first opened at the McNay Museum in San Antonio in 2013, the Estampas exhibit traveled to Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Atlanta arts magazine, Arts Atl, promoted the November 1, 2023 opening of Estampas with a strong appraisal: “This riveting collection comes to Oglethorpe University Museum of Art [in Atlanta] from the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.” Atlanta Museum curators added that Estampas was “the most comprehensive survey of Latino artists’ contributions to post-1960 American printmaking to date.”
The second tour of Estampas was made possible with generous support from the Art Bridges Foundation based in Arkansas. A Foundation newsletter noted that the Estampas collection “comprises an essential but largely overlooked aspect of contemporary American art, focusing on prints made by Mexican American and Latino artists during and after the Chicano art movement of the 1960s and 1970s.”
With the final leg of the current Estampas art tour ending January 31, 2024 in Atlanta, Harriett and I are taking this opportunity to discuss the origins of Estampas, hoping it will inspire other museums to mount a similar Latino exhibition.
In 2010, my wife Harriett and I attended a talk on modern Mexican prints by Lyle Williams at the McNay Art Museum. Williams noted that a McNay Museum purchase of forty-four prints a decade earlier from the Philadelphia Museum of Art had stimulated a new interest in the collection of Mexican art.
As we left the talk, Harriett and I discussed the possible impact a donation of 100 of our Chicano prints might have in McNay’s expansion of a new genre. To our knowledge, the McNay Museum had at the time only acquired a few Latino paintings or prints since its opening in the 1950s. Our donation, we thought, might precipitate new interest and possibly new museum acquisitions of Chicano and Latino art.
Our initial donation of 100 artworks, including striking large prints, was only a sample of the 300-plus artists whose work on paper we had collected. The donation led to the Estampas de la Raza exhibit curated by Lyle Willams and Heather Lammers. When we learned about the pending exhibit, we donated an additional 100 prints, however, only 61 prints by 44 artists from the initial contribution were included in the exhibit due to limited space.
The Estampas opening in San Antonio was a huge success at the McNay with nearly 2,000 visitors. The September 25, 2013 opening surpassed the previous new opening day attendance record registered with an Andy Warhol opening. In addition, the Estampas book catalog won the Fine Print Dealers Association’s Book of the Year Award at the New York Armory.
Among the artists who came from Los Angeles for the opening were Sonia Romero and Richard Duardo. These two artists are part of my story for this article. Many of the earlier art pieces we donated to the McNay Museum were from the 1980s to 1990s era. The works by Romero and Duardo are more recent vintage, from 2000 to 2010.
Sonia Romero grew up in East Los Angeles and attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. At an early age, she developed an interest in art encouraged by her artist parents, Frank Romero and Nancy [Wyle] Romero. She studied printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2002.
Romero had her first solo exhibit of paintings and prints at Ave 50 Studio in Los Angeles in 2006. In her early art debuts, she emphasized “paper-cut and printmaking aesthetics,” which she incorporated into her fine art and public art commissions. For the Estampas exhibit in 2013, we donated a Sonia Romero print titled “Bee Pile.” Romero is an environmentalist committed to preserving
the earth. Explaining her “Bee Pile” print, she noted, “My imagery draws from Latino or Chicano traditions, but I also draw from other cultures and traditions, contemporary news and culture, and mostly my inner musing.”
We learned from recently visiting her studio in Los Angeles of Romero’s artistic growth, and as a result, we have gained additional insights into her musings. Metro Art, which commissioned her to create art for Los Angeles transportation hubs and stations, observed that “Romero creates work that reflects the cultural diversity found in the communities of Los Angeles and themes relating to the universal connectedness within humanity.”
At a recent Loyola Marymount Gallery exhibit, curators explained how “Romero, renowned for her methodical and sometimes whimsical creative processes, blurs the boundaries between painting and printmaking, resulting in diverse and intricate artworks that defy surface-level interpretation.”
Romero’s colorful and creative art, distinctive in its paper cut-shapes and patterns, comes in many forms, including steel, tile, and paint. Many of her large-scale permanent installations are found around Los Angeles, including in Little Tokyo, Mariachi Plaza, MacArthur Park Metro Stations, and the Artesia County Public Library.
Richard Duardo, a gifted painter, talented printer, and art designer was one of the nation’s premier Latino Master Printers from 1990 to 2014. Born and raised in a Latino
community adjacent to East Los Angeles, Duardo worked closely with California Latino artists his entire career. David Colker of the Los Angeles Times commented upon Duardo’s death in 2014 at age 62, that Duardo was “A gregarious, prominent figure” in the Los Angeles art scene.
Duardo printed artworks for a notable number of the artists featured in the Estampas exhibit, including Sonia Romero and Frank Romero. He designed and printed the superb Frida image by Raul Caracoza chosen for the exhibition book cover. For several decades, Duardo was one of the most influential Latino printmakers and creative artists in the country.
I taught Richard Duardo at Franklin High School in 1969-1970 and recommended him for the Upward Bound Program at Occidental College where I taught for several summers. After high school graduation, Duardo studied art at Pasadena City College and enrolled at UCLA in 1973. After UCLA, Duardo founded the first Chicano-owned serigraphic print studio in Los Angeles, Hecho en Aztlan, which he later renamed Modern Multiples. Over a twenty-five-year period, Duardo published the work of hundreds of artists.
Among the prints that my wife and I bought from Duardo and donated to the McNay Art Museum were his large pop art prints portraying Marlon Brando, Lydia Mendoza, Marylyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jane Russell, Miley Cyrus, Jimi Hendrix, and Billie Holiday. These prints of Hollywood stars and famous music personalities were shown several years ago alongside prints by Andy Warhol at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio in the exhibit titled “Richard Duardo: Pop Portraits.” The Los Angeles Times featured a story on the McNay’s exhibit of Duardo’s work in the
cultural section of the Los Angeles newspaper on July 3, 2015.
Until he died, Duardo worked with numerous
world-famous artists including David Hockney, Keith Haring, and Banksy. Duardo also collaborated closely with Shepard Fairy, the famed creator of the “Hope” posters promoting Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.
Among the prints that my wife and I bought from Duardo and donated to the McNay Art Museum were his large pop art prints portraying Marlon Brando, Lydia Mendoza, Marylyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jane Russell, Miley Cyrus, Jimi Hendrix, and Billie Holiday. These prints of Hollywood stars and famous music personalities were shown several years ago alongside prints by Andy Warhol at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio in the exhibit titled “Richard Duardo: Pop Portraits.” The Los Angeles Times featured a story on the McNay’s exhibit of Duardo’s work in the cultural section of the Los Angeles newspaper on July 3, 2015.
Until he died, Duardo worked with numerous world-famous artists including David Hockney, Keith Haring, and Banksy. Duardo also collaborated closely with Shepard Fairy, the famed creator of the “Hope” posters promoting Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.
In his lifetime, Duardo connected with well-known artists in addition to helping struggling unknown artists print their artwork. He made no distinction between the two and enjoyed every moment centered on art and creativity. His death ten years ago left a large void in the
Latino art world. He was a talented artist and printer and a special friend. Richard Duardo was of tremendous help to me and Harriett in staying connected with West Coast Chicano artists, and he printed the works of many of the artists we collected