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My Life

Artist Statement


I was born in Richmond, California to Jack and Cora Viramontes. My parents were from Mexico and immigrated to the United States in the 1930's. Our family included four (4) boys and three (3) girls. Our first family home was located on Merritt Avenue in San Pablo, California. I attended Broadway Elementary School, Walter T. Helms Jr. High School and Richmond Union High School. It was during these early school years that I became interest in art and I took a number of school art classes. I had thoughts of become a painter. But, a few years after graduating from Richmond High, I was drafted into the Army.

This was during the Vietnam War period. I was lucky and I didn't have to go to Vietnam. Instead, I was sent to work at the Oakland Army Base and later I was sent to Wiesbaden, Germany. While in Europe I was able to travel to many of the major museums and see many of the world's greatest paintings. I became more determined than ever to pursue my idea of becoming a painter after completing my military obligation. I was released from the Army in 1969. After leaving the Army, and with the help of the G.I. Bill, I enrolled in classes at the San Francisco Art Institute.

In the 1970's I began my association with the Galeria de la Raza of San
Francisco. I worked along side the Galeria's directors, Rene Yanez and Ralph Maradiaga on many of their projects. The Galeria was becoming well known in the 'Chicano Art Movement'. They were involved in a number of political causes. While with the Galeria, I painted several billboard/murals for them. One mural was in protest to the closing of the 'International Hotel' in San Francisco. The International Hotel was the home to many low income people who were being evicted in the name of 'urban renewal'. I also painted a mural protesting the death of
Danny Trevino of San Jose who was killed while in police custody. In addition, I painted murals concerning keeping the streets clean and the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. During this time, I also produced a poster for the United Farmworkers Union concerning the grape boycott. This poster titled 'BOYCOTT GRAPES' is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.

After graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1973 with a BFA degree in painting, I went on to San Francisco State University. At SF State I changed my major to printmaking and began specializing in multiple plate etchings. I graduated from San Francisco State University in 1977 with an MA degree in printmaking.

I am presently an instructor in the Printmaking department at City College of San Francisco. I teach etching and monoprinting classes. I also actively participate in print competitions throughout the United States and Europe. My prints have been shown in Mexico City, Tokyo, Puerto Rico and Amsterdam. My work has won various awards including the James D. Phelan Award in Printmaking in 1993. In addition to the Smithsonian Institute, my work is also in the permanent collections of the Norwalk Community Technical College, Norwalk, Connecticut, the David and Lucile Parkard Foundation, Oakland, California and the city of Seattle Public Works Program in the state of Washington.

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Artist Statement:
I come from a painting background and I switched to printmaking more than 22 years ago. Though I still do paint occasionally, the main body of my work is in the form of multiple plate etchings. I switched to multiple plate etchings because I found I could work more quickly on my image ideas and when all the plates were completed, I could print a small edition. In painting, when the painting is done, you only have one painting. In etching you could print multiple copies.

The main theme of my work continues to be my family. I grew up in a Catholic Mexican/American family and we were exposed to a number of traditions unique to our culture and to our church. These prints that deal with my upbringing I call my 'Serious Work'. I also do prints with less serious themes such as cowboys, dogs and cats. I call these prints my 'fun' prints.

All my images are made by combining 4 zinc plates. I have one plate for each of the primary colors (yellow, red, blue), plus a black plate which prints the line drawing. Each plate is printed one after another with the black plate (key plate) printed last. This combination of plates allows me to get a full range of colors along with a full range of drawing and textural effects.

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Permanent Collections:
'BOYCOTT GRAPES' poster, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C
'BOYCOTT GRAPES' poster, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuguerque, NM
'SOCORRO' etching, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle, WA
'HOUSE ON MERRITT AVENUE', 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY ABUELITA', 'HOUSE WITH RED STAIRS', etchings, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Oakland, CA
'MENUDO-BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS', etching, Norwalk Community Technical
College, Norwalk, CT

POSTERS AMERICAN STYLE, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers
CHICANO ART: RESISTANCE AND AFFIRMATION, 1965 -1985, Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
LATINO ART AND CULTURE, multimedia educational packet, Smithsonian Institution

Selected Recent Exhibitions/Competitions:


LATIN AMERICAN POSTERS, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sept. 8, 2006 - March 4, 2007
Dia de los Muertos, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago, IL, Sept. 22 to Dec. 10, 2006
BACK TO BASICS, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, CA, Jan. 27 - Feb. 25, 2006
92nd ANNUAL CSP MEMBERSHIP EXHIBITION, Mission Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA, Jan. 13 - Feb. 10, 2006
ENCUENTROS/ENCOUNTERS, Somarts Main Gallery, San Francisco, CA, July 8 - 29, 2006


MEMORIES & DREAMS, Back to the Picture Gallery, San Francisco, CA, June 27 - July 17, 2005
IMPRINTED: CONTEMPORARY PRINTMAKING, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM, Feb. 4 - Mar. 13, 2005

PRINTMAKERS OF THE GOLDEN GATE, Claudia Chapline Gallery, Stinson Beach, CA, July 10 -Sept. 7, 2004

IMPRESSIONS, 66 Balmy Gallery, San Francisco, CA, May 2 - 18, 2004
25 YEARS OF HEART AND STRUGGLE, Mission Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA, June 28 - Aug. 15, 2003

VISIONS LATINO, Oakland Museum Collectors Gallery, Oakland, CA, Oct. 12 - Dec. 1, 2002 [Acting Curator for this show]
PACIFIC PRINTS 2002, Pacific Art League, Palo Alto, CA, Oct. 1 - Nov. 27
PLACE OF ORIGIN, Encantada Gallery, San Francisco, CA, June 22 - July 29 [ONE MAN SHOW]
NORTH. NATIONAL ART COMPETITION, Nicolet College, Rhinelander, WI, July 30 - Sept. 13 *PATRON AWARD: 'Socorro'

THE SPIRIT OF HANDMADE PAPER, Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA, CSP group show, Oct. 19 - Dec. 15, 2001
JUST ANOTHER POSTER-Chicano Graphic Arts in California, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, CA, June 19 - Dec. 9

SCRATCH AND BURN - Intaglio Prints, Collectors Gallery, Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA, Oct. 1 - Nov. 12, 2000 *(TWO MAN SHOW)
PACIFIC PRINTS 2000, Pacific Art League, Palo Alto, CA, May 2 - June 30 *HONORABLE MENTION: 'Socorro'
CALIFORNIA WORKS, California State Fair, Sacramento, CA, Aug. 2000 *AWARD OF MERIT: 'Socorro'

JANET TURNER NATIONAL PRINT COMPETITION, Janet Turner Print Gallery, Cal State University, Chico, CA, Aug. 23 - Sep. 26, 1999 *THIRD PLACE AWARD: 'Tribute to Michael'
PRINTS USA 1999, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri, Nov. 20 - Jan. 2000

XAVIER VIRAMONTES PRINTS, Shima Gallery, San Joaquin Delta College. Stockton, CA, Nov. 2 - Nov. 25, 1998 [ONE MAN SHOW]

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