Souto wins honorable mention in international mezzotint exhibition

Francisco Souto, "After Uno y el Universo II."
Francisco Souto, "After Uno y el Universo II."

Francisco Souto, associate professor of art, won honorable mention for "After Uno y el Universo II" at the 2011 International Mezzotint Festival. The festival was held at the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts in Russia.

The international competition is dedicated exclusively to the arts of mezzotint printmaking. The competition featured more than 500 prints submitted by more than 90 artists representing 29 countries.

Mezzotint is a printmaking process that dates to the 17th century, before photography. The whole surface of a metal, usually copper, is roughened evenly and manually with a rocker. If the plate were printed at that point, it would show as solid black. The image is then created by selectively burnishing areas of the surface of the plate with metal tools. The smoothed parts will print lighter than those areas not smoothed by the burnishing tool. “Mezzo-tinto” is Italian for “half-tone” or “half-painted.”

Through mezzotint, the artist works from dark to light in a subtractive method.

“It's like having a piece of paper covered with graphite or charcoal on it and taking an eraser and erasing back the lights,” Souto said. “You start off with the darkest value and then work your way out.”

In the 17th century, it was a way to reproduce paintings. It later became obsolete until the 19th century in England when there was a rebirth of the process, and it became a process for artists.

“I was doing it for the last 10 years, pushing the technique to the point that every single print became a challenge to see how I can push myself and the technique,” Souto said.

In 2005, an injury forced Souto to take a break from the mezzotint process.

“That was really a 'beautiful' moment. It was a wake up call,” he said. “I realized I can't keep pushing myself like that with that intensity for seven to eight hours a day. I have to do something else.”

He has slowly returned to mezzotint and has taught workshops on the method in Italy and in Mexico each of the last three years.

Souto was born in Venezuela. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Herron School of Art and Design of Indiana University, where he learned mezzotint.

Souto joined the UNL faculty in 2004. He previously taught in North Carolina.

His honors include more than 45 national and international awards and grants including Special Prize at the 7th International Triennial of Prints in Japan, selected prize at the 12th International Biennial of Prints and Drawings in China and the International Award at the British International Print Exhibition.

His work has been exhibited in more than 80 venues in the last nine years, including exhibitions in France and New York City. This year, he participated in the exhibition “Epicenter/Epicentro: Re Tracing the Plains” on the occasion of the Venice Biennale 54th International Arts Exhibition in Venice, Italy.

— Kathe Andersen, Fine and Performing Arts