Oaxaca, Mexico, is popular with travelers for its beaches and mountains, its colonial architecture and food, and its brightly painted animal carvings called alebrijes.
What’s less known is that the state in Southern Mexico — particularly its capital, Oaxaca City — also is “a printmaking Mecca,” says Olympia artist Mimi Williams.
“Oaxaca to Washington,” an exhibit opening Friday at Childhood’s End Gallery in Olympia, showcases prints from Oaxaca alongside work by local artists Williams and Edgar Martinez.
This is not the Martinez of Mariner baseball fame but rather a printmaker who lives in Olympia and hails from Oaxaca City, where he co-founded a printmaking collective. Martinez moved here in 2013 with his wife, Jessica Martinez, who grew up in Olympia and graduated from Olympia High School and The Evergreen State College.
But the story of the exhibit — the first international show at Childhood’s End — began with Williams, who did an artist residency in Oaxaca City in September 2017 and discovered that she could hardly have found a better place to further her printmaking skills.
She’s been making linoleum block prints by hand for 15 years and wanted to learn to use a press to make reduction prints, a technique in which multiple colors are printed from the same block.
“What astounded me was getting there and seeing so many print shops,” Williams told The Olympian. “The quality of work was so impressive. It’s stunning.”
The popularity of contemporary fine-art prints in Oaxaca began in 2006, when police fired on unarmed protesters. Months of violence resulted, and artists banded together to create posters, stickers and other material as a way of spreading the word about what was happening.
“Through my art, I had a voice to stand up to the injustice I was witnessing,” Martinez, who holds a master’s degree in graphic design, wrote in an artist’s statement. Here in Olympia, he works at a local print shop, and he continues to address political and social injustices in his artwork.
The political unrest in Oaxaca subsided, but not before printmaking had been firmly established there.
“It just keeps evolving,” Williams said. “The work is so striking.”
During her time in Oaxaca City, she encountered collectors from Mexico City and Europe along with a few from the United States.
When she returned to Olympia, she talked with Martinez, whom she’d met through a mutual friend, about the idea of an exhibit here. Both he and Childhood’s End owner Richenda Richardson were enthusiastic.
The Martinezes travel twice a year to Oaxaca City, where they met in 2010. When he visited in February, Edgar Martinez connected with other printmakers — including many who’ve won prestigious awards — and brought back more than 100 prints for the show in Olympia.
“Everyone was super enthusiastic,” Williams said. “We are filling that gallery with art.”
Oaxaca to Washington
Childhood’s End Gallery’s first international exhibit showcases the printmaking prowess of artists in Oaxaca (pronounced “wa-ha-ca”), Mexico.
When: Opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, with prints on view through July 15
Where: Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia
More information: 360-943-3724, childhoods-end-gallery.com
Also: Printmakers Edgar Martinez of Tumwater and Mimi Williams of Olympia, both featured in the show, will demonstrate their printmaking methods from 6 to 7 p.m. June 21.