Ask anyone outside of San Antonio what they know about the city, and odds are they will speak of the River Walk and the Alamo. However, there is a lot more going on in the city besides the main tourist attractions. Every second Saturday, artist-run galleries in the South Flores Art District open their doors to a world of local contemporary art.
The third annual exhibition this month at local art gallery R Space , called “Print It Up,” is displaying 26 pieces, two by each of the 13 artists featured. Juan Mora, a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at UTSA, is curating the show this month.
“The theme is printmaking, regardless of subject or technique. I am looking for artists who are creative and innovative in reference to concepts or technical issues,’’ explained Mora.
Although R Space sits on the side of an old warehouse and looks fairly modest and plain from the outside, the atmosphere at the opening of “Print It Up” reflected its genuine and humble goals.
R Space owner and local artist Alex Rubio stated at the opening that the space is for undiscovered and developing artists, and that the featured UTSA students “are the future of the San Antonio arts community.”
The featured artists were enthusiastic about their studio processes. Senior arts major Allison C. Valdivia described how her experience with printmaking has been filled with trial and error.
“You do it and you think that you know how it is going to come out, but it’s unpredictable,” explained Valdivia.
However, based off her lithograph print “Tough Luck,” Valdivia appears to have complete control over her technique. Hundreds of wispy strands of hair dominate the self-portrait of Valdivia, with her own braided hair blindfolding her eyes. The viewer, traditionally used to an outside cloth doing the blindfolding, is left to think about what really causes them stress and anxiety.
Like Valdivia, several artists in the show came to printmaking after feeling restrained and less challenged by other mediums.
Arts major Sabrina Alfaro likes that the printmaking process, unlike digital work, has no room for error, and causes her to be exact in every mark she makes. “Using my hands changed my mind completely,” stated Alfaro.
This intimacy is reflected in her linocut print, “Vamos a Kathy’s Kunty Korner!” The meticulous details displayed in her line work express the bold and upbeat attitude of the transgender people featured in the print.
Senior arts major Mary Wuest also discovered printmaking after working in other mediums. Her screen-print “Trophy” depicts two anthropomorphic vases, one with an accentuated hourglass shape and the other with a round, plump figure. Her relationship with three-dimensional objects through ceramics gives her a strong motif to work with when discussing social norms in two-dimensional prints.
Not all the works in the show were representational. In arts major Jake Lopez’s work, aluminum shapes attached by maroon thread create a bold contrast against a tan background. The materiality of the work brings the viewer in, but the subtle horizon lines and mountain ranges created from soft reliefs and negative spaces don’t appear until after longer contemplation.
Attempting to put his visual idea into words, Lopez reflects, “The more you think of a memory, the more you start to make changes to what is really there.”
Like the layers of the earth, older memories get covered up and distorted as experiences continue to build up in the mind. The geological references and the abstract quality of his work comment on how people create and alter their own memories. Lopez leaves the work untitled, allowing the viewers to project their own experiences.
The informal atmosphere of the opening allowed for open dialogue, not only about the artists’ prints but also about the printmaking process.
At the opening, students Allysha Farmer and Mary Wuest demonstrated some of the techniques they use in the studio, and a large group of enthusiastic Second Saturday attendees crowded around to see the artists at work.
Holding “Print It Up” at a local gallery in the middle of a bustling San Antonio art scene gives these students a great opportunity for exposure outside the UTSA sphere. As local art advocates walked around Second Saturday, many casually strolled into R Space, witnessing skillful techniques and progressive concepts from emerging UTSA artists.
“Print It Up” will be on display through Oct. 24 and can be viewed by appointment.