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Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano

June 7, 2013 – August 10, 2014

Overview

Following the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), modern art enjoyed a vital period of artistic achievement. Mexico City was its hub and played host to an international gathering of artists. The presence of these artists created a cosmopolitan atmosphere comparable to the excitement generated by the international avant-garde in Paris between World Wars I and II. However, Mexican painters, photographers, and printmakers dominated the art scene.

Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano showcases the most important of these artists in an exhibition that puts Mexican modern art in a world context for acknowledgment and celebration. All works—paintings, prints, and photographs—are drawn from the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Selected artists include Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Frida Kahlo, Leopoldo Mendez, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo.

Mexican modernism reflected a search in other western countries for a realist art that championed social reform and national identity. It also embraced the most important avant-garde movements in Europe: Expressionism and Surrealism. Mexico found itself center stage to be recognized internationally for its achievements in the fine arts.

Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano will be on view on the Museum’s Henry Street Gallery.


Exhibition in Detail

José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Siqueiros, the esteemed muralists known collectively as Los Tres Grandes, also made significant contributions to the modern print, and works by each artist are included in the exhibition. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has a nearly complete set of Rivera’s lithographs, most of which rephrase in lithographic crayon portions of his famous murals.

Equally celebrated is Frida Kahlo, whose Still Life: Pitahayas, a major still-life painting executed in 1938, will also be on view. Kahlo’s meditation on death is rendered in terms of a magical realism that links her to both European Surrealism and native folk-art traditions. Rufino Tamayo, of all the masters of Mexican modern art, was most indebted to European modernism, especially to the Parisian avant-garde. A painter and printmaker, he is represented in the exhibition by a selection of early woodcuts and color lithographs from a later portfolio of his lithographs.

Modernist photography reached new heights in the hands of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who was the most important Latin American photographer of the last century. Selections from two of his photography portfolios will be on view, including Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal) of 1935. This gelatin silver print is modernist in its clear focus, artful contrasts of black and white, and embrace of everyday life. A portrait of a nameless subject, a humble young woman looking into a mirror while combing her long hair, it speaks to Mexican identity. In its title—an allegorical tribute to timeless beauty—it makes the ordinary wondrous, a critical aspect of surrealist art and literature.

Leopoldo Méndez’s El Rebozo de Soledad (Soledad’s Shawl), from 1952, is a woodcut by an artist esteemed as the greatest Mexican printmaker of the twentieth century. Méndez’s social agenda was to show compassion for the indigenous peoples of Mexico, but the slashes of white and emotional intensity of this print ally it to the sensibilities of expressionist movements abroad.


Exhibition Support

Exhibitions in MMoCA’s Henry Street Gallery are generously funded through an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.