Published: October 17, 2006
While major modern Mexican artists such as José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949), Diego Rivera (1886–1957), David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) and Rufino Tamayo (1899–1991) continue to win broad acclaim for their murals and paintings, less attention has been paid to the wide-ranging impact these artists and their contemporaries had on the world of printmaking.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, in conjunction with the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas., will open a traveling exhibition that examines the vital contributions made by Mexican artists as printmakers. “Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920–1950,” opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art October 21, and will be on view through January 14.
Organized by John Ittmann, curator of prints at the Philadelphia museum, and Lyle Williams, curator of prints and drawings at the McNay, the exhibition will present 125 prints and posters by 50 Mexican and foreign-born artists. The inclusion of foreigners working in Mexico underscores the powerful attraction exerted by that country and its art communities over several generations of artists and printmakers worldwide. The exhibit will travel to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tenn., and the Phoenix Art Museum before completing its tour in San Antonio.
“Postrevolution Mexico witnessed a broad-based revival in printmaking that developed alongside the better-known public mural program,” says Ittmann. “Trained artists shed their academic styles and determined to bring their prints to broad segments of the Mexican populace, whose own daily routines and familiar surroundings became the true-to-life subjects of everybody’s prints. This exhibition presents the groundbreaking contributions of Mexican and foreign-born artists at a pivotal moment in Mexican art.”
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, launching a national art movement that wholly embodied the revolution’s ideals.
“As Mexican artists embraced the graphic arts, they helped define a postrevolution Mexican identity,” adds Lyle Williams. “Printmaking in Mexico changed the notion of what public art is, and posters 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.”
“Mexico and Modern Printmaking” will be divided into two sections: The first will examine the rediscovery of printmaking by Mexican artists in the wake of the revolution, while the second will focus on the phenomenal success of the Taller de Gráfica Popular during its first dozen years of operation.
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 the simultaneous publication of limited-edition prints of Mexican subjects, aimed at international collectors, and mass-produced posters and leaflets, intended for widespread distribution to the native populace.
A 300-page, fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition. Approximately 125 works by 50 artists will be discussed in 16 topical sections with entries written by the curatorial team. It features essays on topics such as the history of printmaking in Mexico, the interaction of the Weyhe Gallery with art in Mexico between the 1920s and 1940 and the confluence of art and politics in prints and posters by independent scholar James M. Wechsler.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, www.philamuseum.org or 215-763-8100.
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