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De Soto and Mexico: Part OneOctober 14 - December 2, 2001. De Soto and Mexico Part One of the University of Arizona Ongoing exhibition of works by The de Soto Workshop.
A quality work is the product of an often intense collaboration between artist and printer
By Gene Armstrong.
Thursday October 18, 2001. Arizona Daily Star
True or false: A print is just a copy.
True. And false. It can be simply a copy of an artwork. Or a piece of art in itself.
To reach into the art realm, printmaking requires intense collaboration between the printer and the artist, says Ernest F. de Soto. He ought to know; he has worked as both during his life.
"We printers are technicians, and you put yourself at the complete disposal of the artist.
"At the same time we direct him how to achieve his idea."
Although he trained in drawing and painting, the 77-year-old Green Valley resident achieved fame as a master printer.
The University of Arizona Museum of Art will showcase his printmaking skills in an exhibition, "de Soto and Mexico: The First Part." Which opens Sunday.
The Exhibition shows off de Soto's work with Mexican artists and in Mexico.
A second exhibition, covering other aspects of de Soto's printmaking career, is scheduled for March 3-April 21.
Peter Briggs, the chief curator at the UAMA, said de Soto simply walked into the museum one day.
"I knew him by reputation, and we had some of his early works from the 1950's and '60's in the museum's collection, but I had no idea that he lived in Tucson or that he was from here.
Almost immediately Briggs started hatching an idea to showcase de Soto's work.
"I just thought it was an incredible opportunity to show the community exactly what a master printer does and to celebrate the work of a Tucsonan who was at one time the only Mexican-American doing this kind of work," Briggs said.
"de Soto has worked with Mexican and American artists such as José Luis Cuevas, Gunther Gerzso,Gustavo Rivera, Ruth Asawa, Roy De Forest, Richard Diebenkorn and Luis Jimenez.
Non-artists might not always pay attention to the differences between original prints and reproductions.
An original print, de Soto said, is a part of a limited run of multiple copies created directly from the artist's work, with the artist's input.
"They're not mechanically or photographically printed.
A Master Printer's Unique Collection
By Tim Hull
Wednesday, November 14, 2001. Green Valley News & Sun
Master printer Ernest de Soto has worked with great artists from all over the world during his more than 40-year career creating lithographs, but none have been greater than the many Mexican artists with whom he has forged an almost symbiotic reputation.
Goya used successfully
Beginning in the late 1960's de Soto, a Tucson native and resident owned and operated a series of well-known lithography workshops that became very popular with an emerging generation of now world-famous Mexican artists.
Based in San Francisco from 1967 until his retirement in 1993, de Soto's Collectors Press Lithography Workshop, Editions Press, and The de Soto Workshop enticed such future giants of Mexico's art world as Jose Luis Cuevas, Alejandro Colunga, Rufino Tamayo, Gunther Gerzso, Gustavo Rivers, Francisco Toledo, and Leonora Carrington to American to Collaborate on what has become an important post-war lithography collection.
The University of Arizona Museum of Art is showing a porting of de Soto's body of work as part of "De Soto and Mexico: The First Part."
The second part of the show will run from March 3 to April 21, 2002.
Invented in 1790 in Bavaria, lithography became popular with artists some 20 years later after Francisco Goya used it successfully while making his famous "Disasters of War" series.
To create a lithograph, an artist draws an image on a slab of limestone, usually with a grease pencil. The image is treated with chemicals (gum arabic and nitric acid) and the stone is wetted. An ink roller is then applied to the stone, spreading ink on the greased image. A sheet of usually hand-made, cotton-rag paper is pressed onto the stone transferring the image to the paper. If the lithograph is in color, a separate stone must be prepared by the artist for each color.
Each lithograph is an original, signed and numbered by the artist and embossed with the name of the master printer or the workshop that printed it.
Each print in the edition is numbered. A typical edition usually contains about 100 prints.
De Soto's homecoming exhibition features his work with Mexican artists such as Jose Luis Cuevas on his "Coloso"
They are all hand-printed on handmade paper," he said.
"All the elements are derived with the idea that it is an original print rather than a reproduced work."
The average number of art prints created is 100.
Such numbers may be adjusted according to the agreement with an artist or what the market will bear, he said.
"Some artists who are really precious about what they do will ask for a run of maybe 20 or 30," he said.
Print editions of larger than 100 are often simply reproductions, he said.
"If an edition is numbered at 1,000 or more, I'd be suspicious of that.It's usually offset-printed reproductions. You never make that many prints."
De Soto said the work of many popular 20th-century artists-especially Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró-has been corrupted by large editions of reproductions marketed as signed prints.
An eighth-generation Tucsonan, de Soto left Tucson High School for art school in Los Angeles when he was 17.
He quickly was drafted into the Army Engineers and celebrated his 18th birthday while being inducted.
De Soto's background in art landed him an assignment as a camouflage technician.
After serving in the South Pacific, de Soto returned to Los Angeles briefly and then used money from the G.I. Bill to fund his studies in Mexico.
He studied drawing and painting under such renowned Mexican artists as José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo.
In the 50's, he had teaching positions in New York City and Cleveland before teaching lithography, starting in 1959, at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.
Since then, he has become best known as a lithographer.
He received his master printer's diploma in 1967 from Tamarind Lithography in Los Angeles.
Following that certification, de Soto founded Collectors Press Lithography Workshop in San Francisco (later re-named De Soto Workshop), where he worked until 1993, when he retired to Green Valley.
He still maintains a partnership in a printing workshop in Mexico City while drawing, painting and making prints in a small home studio.
De Soto will appear at a public reception, following a lecture to printmaking students at 4-6 p.m. today at the museum.
Ernest de Soto collaborated with many Mexican artists as lithographer
Upper Left: "Iron Cross" by Ruffino Tamayo; "Los Papeles de Salazar" by Jose Luis Cuevas; "Payaso" by Alejandro Colunga; All printed as lithographs by Ernest de Soto. (Photo's courtesy Ernest de Soto)
After the edition is complete, the stone is effaced, making future production impossible.
Most artists who use this medium consider their chosen master printer a collaborator-as indispensable as their pencil.
De Soto had that kind of relationship with many of the artists he worked with over the years, he said.
Walking through the UA exhibition recently, he talked about works by Cuevas, Tamayo, and others with the same deep knowledge and pride one would expect from the artists themselves-relating the intricacies of the production of each print as if he had worked on it that morning.
Not surprisingly, de Soto has a vast knowledge and a keep appreciation for Mexico and its art, and he counts many of the Mexican artist's he's worked with over the years among his closest friends.
"When you see (these prints) you can almost see the region that the artist comes from.
Many of the artists in the collection come from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, a region whose artists, de Soto said, are obsessed with animals.
"In southern Mexico, in the Oaxaca area, they are very animistic," he said. "You can see it in some of the elements of Colunga, and in Tamayo especially. Francisco Toledo is one of the main artists of that region, and you look at his work and you see nothing but scorpions and animals."
Highlights of the current UA exhibit include works by Toledo, Colunga's "Payaso" and "Autobus." Cuevas' "Los Papeles de Salazar," Tamayo's "Iron Cross," and two wonderfully strange prints by Leonora Carrington, one of the few truly Surrealist artists left.
Lent to museum
Most of the prints in this outstanding exhibition were lent to the UA museum by de Soto, part of a personal collection of lithographs he's collected over the years.
Though mostly retired since 1993, spending his days painting and creating lithographs on his home press in Green Valley, de Soto is co-owner of a workshop in Mexico City.
He visits his shop about twice a year, he said, continuing his tradition and reputation for craftsmanship with a new generation of Mexican artists, and keeping up relationships with those he's working with in the past.
De Soto also operates a web site (www.desotowrkshopart.com) through which he offers for sale many of the prints he's made during his long career.
The UA exhibition is free and runs through Dec, 9 at the UA Museum of Art, located on the UA campus near Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard.