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"Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920-1950"
2007-07-01 until 2007-09-16
Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix, AZ, USA

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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