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¡Tierra y Libertad! Revolution and the Modernist Mexican Print

January 14, 2012 – April 16, 2012

Overview

¡Tierra y Libertad! Revolution and the Modernist Mexican Print focuses on artists’ search for a national identity following the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). During the late 1920s and the 1930s, Mexico experienced an important print revival that paralleled the country’s great mural movement. For Mexican artists, prints were valued, in part, because of the influential role they could play alongside the activist program of monumental frescoes appearing on buildings in Mexico City and the provinces. Like murals, prints were an accessible, populist medium, and despite their smaller format, they embodied the socialist aspirations of the larger works. Mexican artists embraced printmaking as a way to transmit their message of political equality to the broadest audience possible.

Proponents of the revolution—politicians, writers, and artists—recognized the nation’s ideals in the actions of revolutionary figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; in Mexico’s ancient and pre-Colonial past; and in the belief that the indigenous peasantry was the cultural bedrock of a liberated and modern Mexico. Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty) was the battle cry ascribed to Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the revolution. It is taken from Zapata’s famous declaration that La tierra es de quien la trabaja con sus manos (The land belongs to those who work it with their own hands).

La tierra es de quien la trabaja con sus manos (The land belongs to those who work it with their own hands).

Emiliano Zapata

Drawing on the rich holdings in Mexican prints from the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, ¡Tierra y Libertad! presents the graphic achievements of Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—proudly known by their compatriots as los tres grandes (the three great ones). It also includes a broad array of prints produced by the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP). Founded in 1937, the TGP flourished in Mexico City for over two decades, devoted to a belief in art’s capacity for social protest and the betterment of the masses.

In their linocuts, woodcuts, lithographs, and etchings, and in posters and broadsides, Mexican printmakers sought to define a modern Mexico. Because they drew upon surrealism, expressionism, and social realism, as well as indigenous sources, their art comes within the fold of twentieth-century modernism.


Exhibition Support

Generous support for ¡Tierra y Libertad! Revolution and the Modernist Mexican Print has been provided by James and Sylvia Vaccaro; Gabriele Haberland and Willy Haeberli; Dianne and Bob Gomez; Associated Bank; CUNA Mutual Group; Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission; La Comunidad News LLC (wisclatinonews.com); a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.

The MMoCA Nights opening of ¡Tierra y Libertad! is sponsored by Newcomb Construction Company; The Alexander Company; and BMO Harris Bank; with media support from Isthmus|TheDailyPage.com.