Gripping a small suitcase, a rural schoolteacher walks determinedly through a desolate landscape. Overhead, an angel-like figure and eagle, intertwined with the Mexican flag, direct the little figure to her destination. The scene is Leopoldo Méndez’s response to the narrative of the Mexican film Rio Escondido (1948). The school teacher, as the heroine of the movie, was emblematic of the Mexican Revolution’s ideal of universal education and resistance to oppression.
Méndez was a master of the linocut, the most popular print medium during the period. Its materials were inexpensive; the linoleum block easy to cut. In this linocut, Méndez gouged patterns of roughly parallel lines into the block with his knife. When the block was rolled with black ink, the ink did not reach these areas. In the print, the resulting slashes of white energize the image, creating a turbulent mood. This aspect of Méndez’s style allies him with the emotional intensity of European expressionism.
Pequeña maestra, ¡qué inmensa es su voluntad! from the portfolio Río Escondido,1948, linocut, 15 7/8 x 20 inches. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Gift of Rudolph and Louise Langer.
Leopoldo Méndez. Bernard G. Silberstein Taller de Gráfica Popular Artists' Portraits Collection, University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research.