“Santos y Pecadores: Cinematic Drama in the Mexican Portfolios of Paul Strand and Leopoldo Méndez,” an innovative installation of photographs, prints and film is at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College. Featuring the work of pioneering modernist photographer Paul Strand and the Mexican graphic artist Leopoldo Méndez, the exhibition examines how the juncture of visual arts and cinema addressed a critical point in Mexican art, society and revolutionary politics. It will be on view until June 5.
The linkages between cinema and the visual arts are extensive, ranging from movie posters and film stills to the role of artists as set designers and cameramen. This was particularly true in Mexico in the 1930s and 1940s. “Santos y Pecadores (Saints and Sinners)” features two important portfolios of works produced in Mexico with connections to films of that period by artists whose work bridges and transcends the divide.
Strand’s “Mexican Portfolio,” 1940, consists of 20 photogravures depicting individuals, buildings and religious figures based on photographs taken in 1932″3. These idealized images of rural Mexico both resemble and contrast with scenes in Redes (The Wave) , 1934, the groundbreaking film Strand made in collaboration with Emilio Gomez Muriel and Academy Award-winning director Fred Zimmemann.
Méndez’s “Rio Escondido Portfolio,” 1948, includes ten linocuts made expressly for the title sequence of a film by Emilio Fernández, one of the leading directors from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.
These two complex series are presented in their entirety, together with related images by Edward Weston, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Raúl Anguiano, Mariana Yampolsky and others, drawn from the Davis Museum’s holdings of Mexican works on paper.
Paul Strand (1890‱976) is one of the great photographers of the Twentieth Century and a pioneer of the American Modernist movement. He studied under Lewis Hine at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. After World War II, Strand traveled around the world †from New England to Ghana to France to the Outer Hebrides †to photograph, and in the process created a dynamic and significant body of work.
Leopoldo Méndez (1902‱969), a Mexican printmaker, painter and illustrator, was deeply involved in the politics of his country. Méndez helped form and participated in several activist artistic groups. He also founded and directed the Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana, a highly respected art book publishing company. After exhibiting his work for the first time in the United States in 1930, he held several exhibitions abroad, and in 1939 he received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation.
The Davis Museum at Wellesley College is at 106 Central Street. For more information, 781-283-2051 or www.davismuseum.wellesley.edu .