The Crown Gallery Artist Interviews: Calixto Robles


The Crown seeks to present publicity to native and worldwide artists by The Crown Gallery, and hosts new artists each 4 months. The Crown Gallery is at present accepting submissions for the Summer time of 2023, and is searching for artists who strategy points associated to environmental sustainability, intersectionality, the Metropolis of Oakland, and naturally, espresso. Contact us here with the topic “Name for Artists” if you wish to apply!

As curator and Inventive Director right here at The Crown, I do a collection of interviews with our artists so that everybody can hear what evokes them. The espresso business is comprised of individuals with multifarious passions, and through my time as a espresso skilled I’ve encountered folks steeped in disciplines as disparate as music composition and astrophysics. It solely appears honest to present time to at least one group I’ve met most continuously within the espresso business: visible artists. So be a part of us for an exploration of the pure world, Bay Space tradition, and our favourite beverage with the resident artists at The Crown Gallery.


Calixto Robles has lived and labored within the Bay Space since 1983. A local of Oaxaca, Mexico, he’s a painter, printmaker, and ceramic sculpture impressed by Meso-America and First Nation folks’s tradition, in addition to sacred imagery of historic Japanese and Western cultures. Robles makes use of pure and supernatural figures similar to angels, eagles, jaguars, horses, hearts, and moons all through his work. Robles creates work round points that he’s personally invested in: social justice and local weather change. He makes artwork to empower folks to seek out energy to struggle for justice. Robles’ work is optimistic and reveals symbols of cultural historical past, survival, and energy.

Hanging his work on the Crown, I used to be instantly taken in by the sturdy use of colour and the consistency of feeling throughout the items. It’s simple to spend a couple of minutes in entrance of every one, permitting the colours and shapes to soak in. The sensation behind the items is nearly dreamlike, and I needed to know extra about his motivations and background.  I visited Robles’ studio on the Redstone Labor Temple in San Francisco to conduct this interview and be taught just a little extra about his life and work.

Calixto’s work shall be on show from October 2022 by January 2023!

Please register to attend his artists’ reception – December 2nd, 2002 –  here.


Calixto Robles


Evan Gilman: What have you ever been engaged on currently? Do you’ve any new initiatives?

Calixto Robles: Recently I’ve been ending a grant that I obtained from the Metropolis of San Francisco a yr in the past. The undertaking is named Prints for the People, and I’m now doing promotional posters for my present. The present is on the 18th of November at Accion Latina, 2858 twenty fourth Avenue in San Francisco.

EG: When did you begin making artwork? I see you employ many alternative mediums while you make artwork, so are you able to inform us just a little about your first introduction to those mediums? 



CR: Like anybody, I began making artwork as a child. We lived on this large home that my grandfather owned, and he rented a few of the different rooms out to folks. Once I was 5 – 6 years outdated, I keep in mind seeing this woman who had a loom making textiles like shawls or large blankets. In the course of the day, she would carry large cans of water outdoors that she would pull threads of various colours out of; purples, reds, blues. And she or he would grasp these dyed threads to dry on the patio. 

Later, one other individual got here to hire a room, and he was a ceramic artist. He did dishes and cups to promote available in the market, and he constructed a kiln with bricks. All the children would collect to look at the fireplace, and to see him put the pottery inside. When he took it out, you’d see the colours of the glaze seem. When he would go away the home typically my cousin and I’d go and play with the throwing desk. 

I believe these issues made me conscious of the colours and issues we may make. And when it rained actually onerous, you could possibly see the a few of the colours within the filth the place the massive drops hit. We’d play with that filth, and make various things of our personal. In elementary faculty or kindergarten we’d do a whole lot of artwork initiatives as effectively. In order a child I used to be at all times uncovered to artwork, and the colours round. 

Once I was going to highschool and school afterward, I at all times favored to make drawings. Watercolors as effectively. A few of my associates from highschool went on to do effective arts, to review portray, music, and different issues. I needed to do the identical, however my dad and mom mentioned “I believe it is best to attempt one thing else like being a health care provider – why don’t you examine these items?” 

So once I was in school I studied industrial chemistry as a result of within the Nineteen Eighties in Mexico, they’d found large fields of oil. So the federal government started creating plenty of positions for industrial chemists. However I by no means put my coronary heart into that. I used to be at all times making drawings even because the trainer was giving lectures. I handed my diploma, however I modified to a distinct college and commenced programs in administration, which I loved extra as a result of it concerned folks. So I completed that course as effectively, and got here right here in 1983. 

I at all times was all in favour of coming to the North. The general public college in Oaxaca was superb, so I already spoke a little bit of English, in order that was useful. I had a good friend who lived in Oakland, so I traveled there first, and looked for a job. In 1983 it was a bit tough, however I managed to discover a job as a waiter. I introduced functions to many locations, however lastly discovered a job in an excellent Mexican restaurant within the monetary district that I had heard about by a good friend. I used to be very fortunate as a result of apparently somebody had give up simply that day and I used to be in a position to begin as a busboy that very day. It was nice to work within the Monetary District as a result of there have been a whole lot of good clients. I labored three months as a busboy, then I had an opportunity to maneuver up into the waiter place. I may work simply two or three hours by the lunch rush, and make sufficient cash to go and examine additional on the Group Faculty to review English and computer systems. 

Throughout this time I additionally went to the libraries to review my roots, in regards to the Aztecs, Mayas, and Zapotecs. Once I was in Mexico I had by no means paid consideration to these issues; we studied the artwork of the Europeans. They taught about artwork from the European views, I don’t know why. Finding out my roots helped me to be pleased with my heritage. 

I began portray with watercolors as a result of there wasn’t an excessive amount of air flow in my room. I used to be at all times portray, however what gave me large assist is once I found the Mission Cultural Middle. In 1986 I used to be strolling down the road and noticed this large constructing with flier for various issues like free dancing courses, singing, guitar courses, dance and drawing courses.. So I went. They had been free courses, so after working within the restaurant, I went to the drawing courses. The trainer for the category was the director of Mission Grafica, the printmaking studio. After just a few months my good friend and trainer, Rene Castro who was from Chile had simply escaped the Pinochet regime, mentioned “Hey Calixto, have you ever seen the studio upstairs?” I hadn’t, so I adopted him upstairs to see the folks doing screenprinting, and I used to be amazed to see what they had been printing. I requested if I may come and volunteer. So the very subsequent day I got here to assist racking the papers, cleansing the screens, and simply assist, you realize? 

I’ve stayed at Mission Grafica till now. From 1986. I realized, turned a trainer to adults and kids. I’ve performed workshops at galleries, colleges, and museums and even traveled to do workshops. So I’m very grateful for screenprinting as a medium. I prefer to share my data, however I at all times be taught a lot from folks as effectively. Printmaking is a really extensive area, and there are at all times new methods coming.



EG: How do you get into the stream of creating artwork? Are you able to describe the sensation you get?

CR: Creating artwork can occur any time.

After working on the restaurant I’d go to Mission Grafica to assist, then would have the prospect do a display screen of my very own, maybe only one colour. Then I’d go residence to sleep, however earlier than falling asleep I’d assume “Tomorrow once I go to Grafica I need to put blue on this space, and pink in one other space..” However then the subsequent day as I used to be placing down colours, Rene would ask me “Hey, what number of colours are you going to do?” And I by no means knew, but it surely simply turned like an habit to go and play with the colours as a result of it’s very simple so as to add colours with screenprinting. 

However now once I come to my studio I arrive at 8 or 9 o’clock, after my household goes to highschool. Often what I do once I get right here is mild just a little sage, and assume good issues. Then if I’m going to start out a brand new piece, I simply put the canvas on the desk and begin placing down colour. I nearly by no means make a sketch beforehand. Rene used to inform me to make a design or plan beforehand, however I prefer to make the traces first and throughout the course of add the colours. One time I used to be beginning to make a jaguar or a horse, however I needed to inform him that I needed to make it from my thoughts, not from a e-book. I confirmed it to my older daughter one other time and he or she mentioned “Daddy, that appears like a rat!” However over time I modified the design and now they’re much extra like jaguars.

The work principally comes from my coronary heart, from inside. And from doing it, practising. My daughter is superb as a result of they educate her to attract at college, and about find out how to deal with mild. Simply practising and doing it helps.


EG: Do you assume that espresso influences the best way you make artwork?

CR: Typically I’ll come right here and have some espresso within the morning. There’s a espresso store downstairs, and I’ll get espresso there. It makes me really feel good! But in addition I understand that it may be one thing that you simply want to do, that you simply don’t really feel good with out. So now I simply have espresso at residence, and once I get to the studio I simply have tea or water.


EG: The cinnamon tea you shared with me is nice – I didn’t understand it might be so candy!

(be aware: this was merely dried cinnamon sticks stored scorching on a espresso maker, and it was unimaginable. I’ll find yourself doing this at residence as a result of it was completely scrumptious and satisfying, particularly on a crisp November day.)

CR: Sure, so typically I’ll have espresso and it’ll put me in a pleasant place. It’s pure and comes from mom earth.


EG: Cafes have been central to many artwork actions. Do you’ve any favourite native cafes? 

CR: For a few years, once I used to work at Mission Cultural Center, I’d go to a espresso store close to twenty fourth road. I believe you may realize it as a result of it has an extended historical past: Café La Bohème. It has modified house owners, however that was one of many first locations I’d go. You would go there to have a espresso, hear to chill music, meet folks. That was considered one of my favourite espresso outlets. I haven’t been there for a while, as a result of my studio moved. I additionally used to go to Muddy Waters, and typically I prefer to go to Cafe Worldwide on Haight Avenue, one other very well-known cafe with an extended historical past. One other issues that cafes supply is that they open their areas to reveals, to political conferences, and different issues. Moreover being espresso outlets, they permit folks to fulfill and assist the neighborhood.


EG:I see that the pure and supernatural are vital in your work. The place is the very best place to seek out the supernatural in San Francisco?

CR: Truly, yow will discover it anyplace. However I prefer to go to Golden Gate Park to stroll the paths. One place I actually prefer to go is in entrance of the bison. I like to sit down down there and watch them; to see how sturdy they’re and the way resilient they’re. I take into consideration the Native Individuals and all of the struggles they’ve been by. To be acknowledged, to be revered, and the treaties. Nonetheless, once I see these bison, I see that they’re sturdy even beside the ocean. 

However to seek out the non secular, it may be anyplace.


EG: The jaguar and the horse are prominently featured in lots of your work at The Crown. What’s the symbolism behind them, for you?

CR: For me the jaguar represents my Mexican tradition that’s nonetheless very sturdy. The jaguar is sort of a warrior that’s caring for our tradition, guarding towards all this materialism and capitalism. It’s a guerrero, a warrior. 

And I just like the horse as a result of it’s a really lovely animal, and it’s very simple to make a drawing. It’s simple to place into paint and to print as a result of it’s so lovely. I prefer to go see the horse races typically, as a result of they’re such a strong animal.




EG: You’re initially from Oaxaca. Did you expertise espresso when you had been there? 

CR: Sure, so my father labored as a mechanic fixing vans and different issues, and there was an ice manufacturing unit close to our home the place he would work typically. I’d like to see them making the massive blocks of ice, and taking them out to placed on vans. Outdoors the door on the entrance, I keep in mind there was only a espresso plant rising there – and it was very wholesome someway. We may choose the fruit off of it simply to style, and it was so candy. Scrumptious. 

Loads folks had been poor in Oaxaca, but it surely has been higher over the past 4 years due to the brand new authorities. There are a whole lot of packages to assist the folks within the mountains and villages. Once I was a child we weren’t poor, however weren’t wealthy both. That is what they mentioned: When you don’t have cash, at the least you’ve espresso and bread. While you go to highschool they’d have very skinny espresso. Utilizing just a bit espresso you make a giant pot, and it’s not sturdy as a result of they had been attempting to save lots of espresso – possibly one spoonful for a giant pot, similar to tinto. My mom used to make a small jar of espresso and we had a chunk of bread with it each morning earlier than faculty. So sure, we at all times had espresso.


EG: What do you assume has modified right here within the Bay Space because you’ve been right here, each for the higher and for the more serious?

CR: Proper now, there are a whole lot of medication and other people with disabilities on the street. It seems like the federal government isn’t doing something for them. That’s a giant change. Once I got here right here in 1983 I by no means noticed the streets full of individuals, and now you seen even younger folks on the streets. I don’t know why the federal government shouldn’t be catching the folks dealing the medication, as a result of you may even see them with teams of children, giving them issues. There’s not a whole lot of respect for teenagers or elders who move by on the streets; now persons are smoking in entrance of children who’re strolling by. I hope that someway this case will be solved. 

And in regards to the good issues: In San Francisco, there are nonetheless lots of people with good hearts. People who find themselves nonetheless doing their greatest to maintain their households and associates shut. San Francisco remains to be a pleasant place.


EG: How would you clarify your artwork to somebody who can’t see?

CR: Colourful and optimistic! That’s what I do.


EG: Is there something you need to promote?

CR: I simply need to thanks and The Crown for the chance to point out my desires and my kinds together with your viewers!


the artist in his studio



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