Library Celebrates Mission Gráfica's Revolutionary Spirit

Mission Grafica book cover and Juan R. Fuentes, World Women’s Conference, Printer: Mission Gráfica, 1985, Screenprint,  24 3/4" x 18 3/4". Courtesy of the artist.

Mission Gráfica: Reflecting a Community in Print exhibits, for the first time, more than 40 artworks from the celebrated screen-printing center’s heyday with exhibition content available in English and Spanish

Opening Reception: August 27, 2:30 – 4 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Lower Level

San Francisco, August 3, 2023 – In 1982, a chance meeting in the Mission District by two exiles, Chilean artist René Castro and Boston-born Jos Sances, led to the birth of the community print center, Mission Gráfica. In the intervening decades, the prolific and artistically independent non-profit, based out of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, has produced striking posters that celebrate culture and urge action and attention to our most prescient political and human rights struggles. On view at San Francisco’s Main Library, August 26–December 17, 2023, Mission Gráfica: Reflecting a Community in Print features artworks spanning the organization’s most fertile period, 1982–2006, by significant artists whose works reflect a wide range of styles and themes. 

“This is a timely presentation reflecting the vibrancy of the Bay Area’s radical spirit,” says co-curator Robbin Légère Henderson. “These richly colored, innovative prints display the highest standards of technical and aesthetic practice. The combination of artistry and political critique seems as fresh, relevant and dynamic today as when the posters were first wheat-pasted on the streets or tacked to activists' apartment walls decades ago.”

Mission Gráfica: Reflecting a Community in Print is a touring exhibition developed in partnership with San Francisco Public Library, artists from Mission Gráfica and the nonprofit exhibition touring service, Exhibit Envoy. It is based on a book by the same name that chronicles the organization’s evolution. A love letter to Gráfica, the rich catalogue was a collaborative effort among the organization’s early principles, Sances, Juan R. Fuentes and Calixto Robles, and other initial collaborators Robbin Légère Henderson and Michelle Mounton with text written by Art Hazelwood. Castro returned to Chile in the late 1990s. The book includes more than 100 full-color screenprints from Gráfica’s vast oeuvre, 42 of which are shown for the first time together in the exhibition.    

According to Hazelwood, “Since 1981, Mission Gráfica has welcomed an international range of artists creating screenprints that pushed the dynamic limits of the media in both political and artistic directions. Yet, for many reasons Gráfica has remained walled off from the “mainstream” art world. This exhibition brings an opportunity to reassess the achievement and contributions of the many diverse artists who created powerful work over the last four decades.”

Mission Gráfica artists created politically-engaged posters for the community and taught screenprinting to fellow artists and beginners. Castro’s artistry and Sances’s technical skill combined to produce beautiful screen-printed posters—highly sought-after commodities at a time when street posters were communication tools as important as social media posts today. Superior artistry, innovation, craftsmanship and stylistic diversity persisted into the following decades under the leadership of Calixto Robles, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and master printer Juan R. Fuentes, the son of California farm workers. Under their direction, Gráfica continued to offer classes, produce posters for community events and international progressive movements and share skills and resources with local and international artists. Today, Gráfica remains a teaching workshop and rents its facilities to community printmakers. In keeping with Gráfica’s community spirit and roots in the Mission District, the entire exhibition is offered in English and Spanish. 

In addition to prints by Castro, Sances, Robles, Fuentes, Henderson and Hazelwood, the exhibition features works by well-known artists: Patrick Piazza, Tirso G. Araiza, Ester Hernandez, Alexandra Blum, Eric Triantafillou, Lawrence Pinkney, Mildred Howard, Ori Sherman, Rupert Garcia, Francisco Letielier, Manu Chinamora, Enrique Chagoya, René Yañez, Domi (Domitilda Dominguez), Mariana Garibay R, Jesus Barraza, Amilca Mouton-Fuentes, Carmen Lomas Garza, Irene Perez, Susana Aragon, Bob Thawley, Jean LaMarr, Nancy Hom, Michael Roman and Josefina Jaquin. The array of themes includes beloved cultural celebrations, such as Día de Los Muertos and Carnaval; Indigenous causes; solidarity with international liberation and anticolonist movements; feminism; local politics and United States imperialism. According to Hazelwood, “The posters of Gráfica speak with equal power in praise of community and in fierce defense of it.”


Mission Gráfica: Reflecting a Community in Print
August 26 through December 17, 2023
Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Jewett Gallery, Lower Level

Public Programs: 
*All public programs are free. 

Opening Reception
Sunday, August 27, 2:30 4 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Jewett Gallery, Lower Level

Exhibition Tour & Artist Talk
Saturday, September 9, 11 a.m. 12:30 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Jewett Gallery, Lower Level

Screening: Strawberry Picker (35 min.) with Juan R. Fuentes 
From a little boy growing up in labor camps to a world-class artist, a look at generations of struggle and resilience in the Chicano Art Community through the experiences of Juan R. Fuentes. Screening followed by a Q&A with Fuentes. 
Sunday, October 15, 2-3:30 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Koret Auditorium 

Screenprinting Workshop 
Saturday, December 9, 2–5 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Latino/Hispanic Room, Lower Level

August 3, 2023