Indepth Arts News: |
"Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920-1950"
2007-07-01 until 2007-09-16
Phoenix Art Museum
Nothing was more fashionable in 1930s New York than to own the latest
etching, woodblock print or lithograph to arrive from Mexico City by Diego Rivera. His one-man exhibition at
the Museum of Modern Art in 1933 was a command performance demonstrating what it meant to be on the
edge of North America’s artistic avant garde. He was the greatest among a large group of artists who
wholeheartedly threw themselves into the production of murals and prints – such as Rufino Tamayo, David
Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo, and more – mythologizing Mexico’s past, critiquing its
present, and pointing to its future. Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920-
1950, on view in Phoenix Art Museum’s Steele Gallery July 1, 2007 – September 16, 2007, is the first
comprehensive exhibition in years to present the work of these artists and their American and European
colleagues working in Mexico at the time.
Mexico and Modern Printmaking is an exciting display of nearly 150 important lithographs, etchings and
woodcuts by 40 artists who came to define a new brand of Modernism, native to Mexico – such as Rivera,
Orozco, Siqueiros, Tamayo, Kahlo, Dr. Atl and their European and American colleagues in Mexico at the
time, including Jean Charlot, Howard Cook, Caroline Durieux, and Elizabeth Catlett. Included are views of
rural Mexico and its people, city life and workers, landscapes, portraits and studies, broadsides, important
moments and figures in history, and surrealistic imagery. Foremost to be seen in the works of art is a
struggle by the artists to show the meaning of being Mexican, the economic and political conflicts of the day,
and a vision of the future for this fledgling society.
The 1920s – just a decade after the Mexican Revolution – gave rise to a drive toward modernism in Mexico
and sparked the prolific wave of printmaking for the next 30 years. While art schools and cultural institutions
flourished, debates about the country’s political and artistic future were heated. Large scale public murals
created by the likes of “Los Tres Grandes,” or three greats – Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco – educated and
inspired the people about their history, Mexican ideals, politics and society. The artists often created
lithographs as part of the mural process, or as an adjunct to their particular post-Revolution “storytelling.”
Soon, printmaking was central to a broad spectrum of political, cultural and artistic endeavors that captivated
many outside of Mexico, as well as their fellow countrymen.
In addition to discussion of each of the artists and their work in the show, the fully-illustrated exhibition
catalog contains three seminal essays on the history of printmaking in Mexico, the connection between
Mexico and the New York art market up through World War II, and the interface of printmaking and
contemporary politics in post-Revolution Mexico.
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