An American City Goes Latino

At a cultural center on the main street in San Francisco's Mission District, Calixto Robles stands amid his paintings and explains an exquisite pair entitled Caballo (Horse) and Pescados (Fish). At 42, Calixto is a man of many media. Since he arrived here from Oaxaca in 1983, he has learned to work in acrylics, oils, encaustic, and print-making techniques such as serigraphy, etching, stone lithography, monotype--the full repertoire of a contemporary visual artist. But Caballo and Pescados are something else again. They're done in a medium called grana cochinilla, which consists of dried, pulverized remains of insects mixed with water or gum arabic. The last time this technique was in common use was during the 15th century, when Mixtec civilization was thriving in southwestern Mexico. "I love the old techniques," Calixto says. "They're one way to keep alive our culture."

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