ALBUQUERQUE — With New Mexico’s rich history in printmaking, as well as an enduring culture of screen printing and design through Chicanx social activism movements, it’s surprising that there has never been a publicly accessible risograph anywhere in the state, until now.
Risolana is a community risograph studio located in the South Valley neighborhood of Albuquerque. Artist-organizers Michael Lorenzo López and Karl Orozco opened the studio in the summer of 2021, and they currently offer educational programs, an artist residency, and printing services as part of their mission to “cultivate an artmaking space as accessible as the risograph itself.”
Even though “risos” were originally intended to fulfill institutional printing needs, artists, writers, and organizers have valued the risograph for its accessibility and technical offering to aid in their quests for cultural transformation. Artists and independent publishers have found the printers to be useful tools for DIY bookmaking and printmaking; artists with socially engaged practices, especially, see the power in designing posters and zines to align their creative talents with activist movements.
Risolana reflects this reality in their vision statement: “We see power in printmaking as a tool for community dialogue where personal and collective expression meet.” The risograph is also a powerful tool in the realm of publishing. It prints quickly (three times faster than a Xerox machine), but has the look and feel of a screen print — the finished product feels like a bespoke object.
The name Risolana is a portmanteau based on the word resolana, a colloquialism used in northern New Mexican villages meaning the sunny spot on a south-facing wall where people gather to relax and share stories. As López reflected on his understanding of the term, he remarked that Risolana’s goal is to cultivate the spirit of resolana, but not necessarily nostalgically recreate it. “[Risolana] is trying to seek out what that ‘resolana’ is currently,” he says.
In thinking more about how community flourishes now, Orozco and López agreed that Albuquerque is rife with the synchronistic “run-in”; in the city, everyone knows everyone, and Risolana supports that by creating an intentional space for people to gather and share news. And Orozco adds, “[Risography] could be as affordable as you want it to be, which lends itself to a wide network of people that are able to access it.”
It is also important to López and Orozco to maintain this well of resources that creatives in Albuquerque can continue to draw from. With all the grant opportunities in the state of New Mexico, they often come with strict stipulations on what an artist can produce, or how they do it. Risolana wants to push against that by removing some pressure and providing the opportunity to experiment in the studio with the riso machine as the anchoring tool.
At its core, Risolana is an artmaking endeavor, but the benefits of this space reach beyond the art community, too. The studio is housed within the Social Enterprise Center (SEC), a community-developed campus created by Partnership for Community Action (PCA). PCA’s mission is to invest in people as leaders in their community by engaging in deep relationship with them to support a strong, healthy New Mexico. Associate Director Nichelle Gilbert describes the partnership as “a natural fit” given that the arts were at the forefront of the community’s mind when they were developing the SEC. Indeed, walking around the building feels like you’re instantly a part of a community, both because of the way people interact with one another and the way they welcome visitors into the space, like old friends coming to catch up. It’s the perfect setting for a budding “resolana.”
One of the many things that Gilbert, López, and Orozco are all in agreement on is the power of Risolana to provide access to high value production. Not only does Risolana provide space for artists, but they also offer skill-share opportunities to other partners at the SEC, such as Southwest Creations Collaborative, a contract manufacturing social enterprise, or Educadores Para Los Niños del Futuro, a community of childcare providers that participate in business-building workshops at the SEC.
When I asked Gilbert what she is most excited about for the future with Risolana, she expressed optimism for their growth and a deep appreciation for López and Orozco as organizers. “Michael and Karl’s energy, commitment, and creativity is inspiring. I am excited to develop this initiative with these two and witness the barriers they will eliminate and the systems that will be shifted with this approach,” she said.
Risolana is poised to initiate a major impact in the South Valley with their intentional cultivation of community, expression, and play. Recently, they announced their first artist residency program which, for summer 2022, will grant writer, illustrator, and photographer Lena Kassicieh three months in the riso studio, a $1,000 stipend, a solo exhibition, plus resources to facilitate a workshop and print an original book. Through this and their other programs, Risolana hopes to encourage artists to take time to develop their self-expression and remind them that their work is needed and cherished by their community.