Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano
June 7, 2013 to August 10, 2014

Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano(Masters of Mexican Modern Art) showcases the artists who, more than any others, defined Mexican Modernism in the 1920s and 1930s: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Frida Kahlo, Leopoldo Méndez, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo. The paintings, prints, and photographs that comprise the exhibition are drawn from the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which is particularly strong in twentieth-century Mexican art. In presenting Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano, the museum places these works in a world context for acknowledgment and celebration. The exhibition will be on view in MMoCA’s Henry Street Gallery from June 7, 2013, to August 10, 2014.

Following the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), modern art enjoyed a vital period of artistic achievement in a newly egalitarian society. Mexico City was the movement’s hub and the city played host to an international gathering of artists. Although their presence created a cosmopolitan exuberance comparable to that generated by the international avant-garde in Paris, it was the Mexican painters, muralists, photographers, poets, and printmakers who dominated the art scene. Modern art in Europe, rejecting the art of the past, was itself a revolutionary model. Mexican artists who wished to depart from the academic tradition of their colonial history enlisted modern art as a vehicle for recognizing and honoring the ideals of the Revolution. 

Similar to modernist movements that arose between World Wars I and II in Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States, Mexican artists sought a realist art that championed social reform and national identity. 

This new artistic movement was nationalistic but tempered by Expressionism and Surrealism, which were among the most important avant-garde directions in Europe. Mexican Modernism was also characterized by a fresh expressivness and enriched by references to indigenous folk art and Pre-Columbian art.

A clear example is Leopoldo Méndez’s El rebozo de Soledad (The Shawl of Solitude), from 1952, 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

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Generous support for Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano, and all exhibitions in the Henry Street Gallery of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, has been provided by an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Related education programming is made possible through a major grant from the Madison Community Foundation.  

Bi-lingual Virtual Exhibition Tours

English-Language Virtual Tour
MMoCA curator Richard H. Axsom presents an English-language virtual tour of Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano. In addition to his role at MMoCA, Richard Axsom is professor emeritus of Art History at the University of Michigan, where he taught courses on modern and contemporary art. A nationally recognized art historian, curator, and author, he has published extensively in the area of modern and contemporary American prints. For a Spanish-language translation of this virtual tour, click on the YouTube "cc" icon. 

Spanish-Language Virtual Tour
Professor Rubén Medina offers a Spanish-language virtual tour that highlights works by Frida Kahlo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and David Alfaro Siqueiros on view in Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano. Rubén Medina is a poet, translator, and chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Spanish and Portuguese who specializes in Mexican and Chicano/a literature and culture, intellectual history, film studies, and Mexican migration to the United States. For an English-language translation of this virtual tour, click on the YouTube "cc" icon.

related programming

Thursday, March 13 · 12:30–1 pm
Richard H. Axsom on Pre-Hispanic Influences on Mexican Modernism
Mexican Modernism, arising from twentieth-century ideals of the Mexican Revolution and modern art, owed much of its character to pre-colonial and pre-Hispanic influences. Notable among these sources are Mexico’s native cultures and the arts of ancient Mexico. Drawing upon works in Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano, MMoCA curator Richard Axsom will discuss this dimension of Mexican Modernism. Henry Street Galleries.