Published: January 30, 2007
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts will open the exhibition “Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920–1950” in the Upper-Level Galleries February 2. Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, “Mexico and Modern Printmaking” continues through April 15.
The exhibition, which a recent Los Angeles Times review called “a revelation,” examines the vital contributions made by Mexican artists, such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo, who, while known more for their murals and paintings, made a wide-reaching impact on the world of printmaking. “Mexico and Modern Printmaking” features 125 woodcuts, linoleum cuts, etchings and lithographs by 50 Mexican artists and a number of artists from outside the country who came to Mexico to be a part of its printmaking renaissance.
The exhibition comprises prints and posters made from the end of the Mexican Revolution until the period immediately following World War II. Fought from 1910 to 1920, the Mexican Revolution overthrew the 30-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and established such far-reaching goals as equitable distribution of land, full literacy and racial equality.
The spirit of reform was accompanied by a new appreciation for the art and culture of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and Mexico’s leading artists launched a national art movement that evoked the nation’s agrarian past while embodying and communicating the social and political goals of the Revolution.
“Mexico and Modern Printmaking” was organized by John Ittmann, curator of prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Lyle Williams, curator of prints and drawings at the McNay. “As Mexican artists embraced the graphic arts, they helped define a post-Revolution Mexican identity,” said Williams. “Printmaking in Mexico changed the notion of what public art is, and poster and prints emerged as the ideal means for disseminating political and social as well as artistic ideas. This was an art of the people for the people.”
The exhibition is drawn almost entirely from the collections of the two organizing museums. The Philadelphia Museum of Art possesses exceptionally rich holdings of prints by Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros and Tamayo. In the exhibition, prints from the Philadelphia Museum of Art are joined by others from the McNay, which owns an especially broad range of work by artists affiliated with the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Graphic Workshop of the People).
A much-celebrated print workshop founded in Mexico City in 1937, the Taller played a crucial role in sustaining the Revolution’s lofty ideals by simultaneously publishing limited-edition prints of Mexican subjects, aimed at international collectors, and mass-produced posters and leaflets, intended for widespread distribution to the native populace.
The exhibition will be divided into three sections. The first will examine the rediscovery of printmaking by Mexican artists in the wake of the Revolution, while showing how artists sought to define Mexican identity through its historical past and in images of everyday life. The second will focus on works by the three artists most closely associate with the Mexican mural movement: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco (known in Mexico as “Los Tres Grandes” for the magnificence of their work). The third section will address art as an agent of social and political reform, highlighting the advocacy and visual polemics of the Taller de Gráfica Popular during its first dozen years of operation.
The Frist Center for the Visual Art is at 919 Broadway. For information, 615-244-3340 or www.fristcenter.org.
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