The search for national identity provides the historic backdrop for La vida en marcha: Mexican Prints from the Permanent Collection. In the wake of the Mexican revolution (1910-1920), the country experienced an artistic revival that literally changed the face of its leading institutions. Moved by the plight of their countrymen and inspired by the European avant-garde, Mexican artists became actively engaged in modernization. As they transformed public buildings into national treasures with colorful murals, they turned to the graphic arts for their accessibility. In the process, they wrote a new chapter in the history of printmaking, producing masterful woodcuts, etchings and lithographs of uncommon poignancy. La vida en marcha ("The March of Life") chronicles four decades of Mexican printmaking. Among the artists represented are the celebrated muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros-known collectively as los tres grandes-along with Jean Charlot, Carlos Mérida, and Rufino Tamayo. The exhibition documents the remarkable synthesis of indigenous and European traditions these artists achieved, many of whom lived or worked abroad during their formative years.
Featuring 100 works by 34 artists, La vida en marcha reflects the museum's extensive holdings in Mexican prints. Alongside important works by the Regionalists and Urban Realists, this concentration represents a unique resource for visitors and scholars. Many works in La vida en marcha came to the museum through the bequest of Rudolph and Louise Langer in 1968. As the museum plans for expansion, this will be the last major exhibition to be presented in the current location. In the new facility (scheduled to open in early 2006), larger galleries and a dedicated works-on-paper study center promise to showcase the collection in new ways.
Guest curator Richard H. Axsom is a nationally recognized print scholar. Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, he has written catalogue raisonnés for such artists as Ellsworth Kelly, Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella. In 1997 Axsom co-curated the exhibition Claes Oldenburg: Printed Stuff for the museum, where it premiered before a national tour. He has also published on Judith Rothschild and Terry Winters.
La vida en marcha: Mexican Prints from the Permanent Collection is organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition will be on view from September 7, 2003 through January 4, 2004. (The exhibition is closed for two weeks beginning November 16 due to a special event.) Admission is free and open to the public; the galleries and Gallery Shop are open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 am to 5 pm, Fridays 11 am to 9 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 9 pm, and Sundays 1 to 5 pm.
Generous funding for this exhibition has been provided by the Madison Print Club; McGrath Associates; a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; the Exhibition Initiative Fund; the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's 2003-2004 Sustaining Benefactors; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.