Ready for Research: Mission Gráfica/La Raza Collection

The following guest post is by Maggie McCready, Archivist in the Prints & Photographs Division.

A collection of nearly 1,200 prints and posters by 265 different artists is now online at the Library of Congress.  This artwork represents 40 years’ worth of culture, printmaking, and protest based in the San Francisco Bay area. Let me introduce you to the studios of the Mission Gráfica and La Raza Graphics!

This autobiographical print demonstrates the hustle and bustle of the La Raza Graphics studio as well as the collaborative spirit it fostered. Artists worked together to illustrate, design, and print posters for local community events and also participated in political conversations at the national and international level. The donor noted that a number of La Raza Graphics “members are recognizable in this piece: Herbert [Siguenza], in the foreground pulling a silkscreen print; Pete Gallegos reading a newspaper; Juan Fuentes (to the left of Pete) discussing business with another member; and then there’s Linda Lucero located in the lower left-hand corner working at the drawing table, compass in hand.”

A Day in the Life. Print by Herbert Siguenza, 1981. // Used by permission.

Artists like Al Borvice, Oscar Melara, Pete Gallegos, René Castro, and Jos Sances, who founded the La Raza Graphics and Mission Gráfica printshops, fostered a community who sought to address the repeated racism faced by Latina/o Americans in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s. What resulted was a thriving print culture in the Bay Area that persists to this day, and has attracted multiple artists from around the world to participate.

El Dia de los Muertos / Galeria de la Raza / Studio 24. By Enrique Chagoya, printed by Jos Sances, 1981. // Used by permission.

Como la flor [Selena]. By Favianna Rodriguez, printed by Juan Fuentes, 2001. // Used by permission.

In addition to prints from La Raza Graphics and Mission Gráfica, this collection includes work from Alliance Graphics, FITS Printing, and Taller Tupac Amaru, among others. Topics covered in this collection range widely, from union organization, imperialism, war, and racism to such cultural festivals as Día de los Muertos and Encuentro del Canto Popular, dances, community theater, and more.

My colleague, Curator of Fine Prints Katherine Blood, collaborated closely with artists Juan Fuentes, Art Hazelwood, Emmanuel Montoya, Calixto Robles, and Jos Sances to acquire the Mission Gráfica/La Raza Graphics Collection in 2010. Blood describes the impact of the collection as “adding a trove of artworks by both celebrated and emerging artists from the California Bay Area. Their diverse voices, including many Chicano Movement creators, reflect personal, community, national, and global concerns. This acquisition is also part of the Library’s wider efforts to expand representation of contemporary creators from regional printmaking studios and collectives from around the country.”

To provide far-reaching online access to this collection, P&P staff inventoried, organized, digitized, and cataloged each print, as well as described the related printed ephemera.

Our archival work began with a processing plan and consultation among my curatorial, public service, and technical services colleagues. We carefully inventoried all 1,400 items and combed through the contextualizing information from the artists. In collaboration with Senior Cataloger Kara Chittenden, I was able to map the structured information in the artists’ lists to develop a data dictionary, which is a useful tool for standardizing the “metadata capture.” From the initial spreadsheet, we could effectively create item-level catalog records for the 1,187 unique prints in the collection.

In addition, this collection has over 100 “variant prints.” The variations involve unique elements either in color selection; special notations, like signatures; or later reprintings in a totally different medium. An example of this is the silk screen print by Jos Sances (left), which was originally printed by the artist in 1985. That poster was later reprinted in 1994 as a black-and-white offset lithograph by Autumn press (right).

Equality and Justice for All / National Day of Justice for Immigrants and Refugees. By Jos Sances, 1985. // Used by permission.

Equality and Justice for All / National Day of Justice for Immigrants and Refugees. By Jos Sances, 1994. // Used by permission.

We grouped the non-poster items, including ephemera, screen printing materials, and slides, by format and by content under the following call numbers:

  • LOT 15483 – La Raza Graphics documentation, ephemera, and zines. Consists of administrative records, correspondence, ephemera, zines, flyers, and exhibit catalogs that document La Raza Graphics from 1974 to 1994.
  • LOT 15484 – Screen printing materials used by Rupert Garcia and Jos Sances to make posters. Includes rubyliths, transparencies, and sketches that reveal the work that goes into creating a single screen print. Of special note are the process materials for an early proof of Garcia’s iconic portrait of Frida Kahlo.
  • LOT 15563 – La Raza Graphics slides. Provides a glimpse into the creative process of a mural workshop in 1986.

To get the prints online, I worked with Digitization Specialist Chris Masciangelo to determine what resolution was necessary to capture small or faintly inscribed notations on the prints. I also ensured that descriptions lined up with the correct images. The resulting high-resolution scans provide full color and detail.

Digitization specialist Chris Masciangelo and Archivist Maggie McCready checking the scans and metadata for a Jos Sances Print. Photo by Katherine Blood, 2022.

EZLN: La Lucha Continúa 1994-2004. Art by Fernando Olivera, designed and printed by Calixto Robles, 2004. // The print includes an inscription on the front: “Para Juan y Familia con cariño,” which indicates that this print was a gift from the artist to Juan Fuentes. Used by permission.

No Reconquista in my Name / Xicanos for Peace. Print by Francisco Dominguez, 2003. // The print includes an inscription on the front: “c/s”. That abbreviation means “con safos,” which is a way of asking people to respect an art work—to treat it safely. Used by permission.

If you look closely, you can find printer and artist signatures, handwritten notes, and even embossed designs. These clues tell us more about a print’s story. (Click here to see prints with inscribed notes.) Senior catalogers Antoinette O’Bryant and Kara Chittenden continue to add subject access for each catalog record in order to highlight the themes and imagery in each print.

Senior catalogers Antoinette O’Bryant (left) and Kara Chittenden (right) examining a print by Juana Alicia and adding subject headings to the catalog record. Photo by Katherine Blood, 2022.

Communities of artists often collaborate and rely on each other to create their art, which is an especially strong aspect of the Mission Gráfica/La Raza Collection. Archivists, curators, catalogers, digital library specialists, and reference librarians also value collaboration and work closely together. We want to ensure that the art we work with will be widely available and carefully preserved for many generations to come.

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