Women printmakers raise their voices

‘Sus Voces’ features work by nine artists from Mexico


They speak of their culture, their lives as women, of their fears and desires.

“Sus Voces,” Spanish for “their voices,” brings together nine contemporary women printmakers from Mexico at Highpoint Center for Printmaking. The women aren’t presented as a chorus, singing in harmony; working in a variety of styles, with diverse subject matter that ranges from political allegory to diaristic introspection to documentation of a country convulsed with violence, each maintains her own distinct voice.

The show arrived at Highpoint in February under the guidance of artist and curator Maria Cristina Tavera, who was raised partly in Minnesota and partly in Mexico. Tavera’s own work explores the intersections of gender, ethnicity and society, and with “Sus Voces” she presents nine different women’s perspectives on life in the United States’ southern neighbor.

Mercedes Lopez Calvo’s technique might remind some viewers of Lynd Ward, the 20th-century American artist best known for the series of wordless proto-graphic novels he illustrated with expressionistic woodcuts. In Calvo’s prints, forms are defined by light and inky shadow, and the rough grain of the wood becomes an essential component of her compositions.

“Llama Nocturna” is a sensual, nearly abstract image of tropical leaves and fronds densely layered on top of one another. It sits comfortably next to the murky, dream-like imagery in the prints of Rossana Cervantes Vasquez.

But in other prints by Calvo, the darkness implies fear or even impending violence, as in an image of three bound men with their shirts pulled over their heads, or another of 14 people all lying face down in a circle, their hands behind their heads, while a single figure stands over them.

The rooster, whole or in parts (as if chopped up for dinner), is a recurring symbol in a series of large, woodcut self-portraits by Edith Chavez. It’s a metaphor that could point in various directions: to the machismo culture of Latin America or the domestic duties of Mexican women.

Gallery Director Jess Krueckeberg helped to unlock the mystery, explaining that the roosters allude to the Spanish phrase for goose bumps, which is closer to “chicken skin.” It adds poignancy to Chavez’s various expressions in the self-portraits, whether she’s gazing coolly at the viewer or looking lost in apparent rapture.

The prints of Diana Morales Galicia pack a wallop of a graphic punch, detailing in stark black-and-white a murmuration of birds swirling above a decrepit rollercoaster and, in a separate image, a tower of scaffolding growing larger as it climbs into the sky. They imply an infrastructure metastasizing out of control.

In a trio of large portraits by América Rodriguez, women’s faces emerge from heavily patterned linocuts. The hatch marks and lacy thickets of lines hide little fishes and lizards that skitter across the image like stray thoughts.

All executed on small squares of rough, grayish paper, Adriana Calatayud Morán’s series of “Animalismo” lithographs overlay human anatomical illustrations on portraits of animals, including a moose, a polar bear and a tiger. The stiff illustrations contrast with the lively beasts, implying something wilder is contained by our physical bodies.

A series of lithographs by Daniela Ramirez are delightfully strange and confounding, filled with fantastical hybrid creatures that could be cast as demons in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. But there’s also a dead-pan humor to Ramirez’s work that is more in line with the Surrealists.

A pair of Jimena Ramos etchings combine images from fashion magazines and comics with playful, clear-lined doodles. They have an appealingly carefree, Pop sensibility.

Sus Voces

When: Through March 26

Where: Highpoint Center for Printmaking, 912 W. Lake St.

Info: highpointprintmaking.org, 871-1326