Los Angeles, California – March 13, 2015 – Mexico: Fantastic Identity, curated by Emma Cecilia García Krinsky, is an exhibition of over 60 works that sends every viewer on a journey through the various art movements that were important in Mexico during the twentieth century. The exhibition presents masterpieces from landmark moments in modern Mexican art history, including a 1914 Diego Rivera cubist work completed during his stay in Paris; Frida Kahlo’s 1933 painting ‘My Dress Hangs There’; and two large works from 1974 made by muralists José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, both showing the use of U. S. industrial materials in their painting. Other highlights include works by Jose Luis Cuevas from the midcentury La Ruptura movement, as well as examples of Surrealist-inspired work, such as that of British émigré Leonora Carrington. MOLAA President and CEO, Stuart Ashman stated, “We are so pleased to be the only west coast venue for this extraordinary exhibition that presents not only incomparable paintings but also insightful portraits of their creators by photographers such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide.”
Rosa María Rodríguez, FEMSA Collection Cultural Program Manager stated “It is a matter of great pride for FEMSA to be able to share the masterpieces of great Mexican masters that are part of our collection, formed by more than 1,200 Modern and Contemporary Latin American artworks with a strong emphasis on Mexican production. This exhibit was presented with great success at the Ayala Museum in Makati, Philippines, and now it is shown in the United States thanks to the invitation of Stuart Ashman, President and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art. I am also grateful with Emma Cecilia García Krinsky for her outstanding curatorship. In addition, a documentary video playing in the MOLAA Screening Room enriches the exhibition by offering commentary and testimonies from art historians and critics.”
The exhibition is divided into seven sections: From the European Experience to the Mexican School of Painting; Landscape; Avant-Garde Movements; The Marvelous Real, Surrealism Avant La Lettre; The Arrival of European Surrealism; New Trends in Mexican Plastic Arts: The Rupture, and Portrait.
From the European Experience to the Mexican School of Painting
At the dawn of the 20th century, Mexican painting was heavily influenced by European art. Both Angel Zárraga and Diego Rivera received support from the Mexican government to study in Europe. Zárraga left in 1904 and stayed there until 1940, becoming friends with numerous painters such as Modigliani, who exerted a strong influence on him. Rivera arrived in Spain in 1907, rapidly relocating to Paris, where he remained until 1921. He too became acquainted with many turn-of-the-century vanguard artists. Those relationships influenced Rivera’s explorations of Cubism.
While Zárraga and Rivera were in Europe, Mexico was going through a Revolution (1910 –1920). In 1921, José Vasconcelos, a visionary man who identified culture as an instrument to unify and consolidate revolutionary ideologies, became Mexico’s Minister of Education. Vasconcelos embarked upon ambitious cultural projects throughout the country, mainly mural painting, which emphasized the importance of Mexican folk art, pre-Hispanic art and the Revolutionary triumph and brought art to the masses. To achieve his objectives, Vasconcelos summoned Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. The three painters reunited in 1922 for the inauguration of the Union of Revolutionary Etchers, Painters, Sculptors, and Technical Workers.
Landscape painting became important in Mexico by Mid-19th century, when an Italian painter named Eugenio Landesio arrived for a teaching position at the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City. His disciple José María Velasco, skillfully developed the subject, leaving a prolific legacy to forthcoming generations. Mexico’s snowy volcanoes – the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, which can be seen from Mexico City – were popular landscape subjects. In 1943 the Paricutín erupted in Michoacán and was eagerly recorded by one of the greatest Mexican landscape painters: Gerardo Murillo, better known as “Dr. Atl.”
Muralism and the Mexican School of Painting were not the only pictorial disciplines fostered in Post- Revolutionary Mexico. At the end of the 1920s, a group of artists comprised of Julio Castellanos, Agustín Lazo, Carlos Orozco Romero and Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, adhered to the tenets of a literary group named “The Contemporary,” incorporating new trends in European art into their “Mexican” paintings. Rufino Tamayo, who began as a muralist, also eschewed the propagandistic ideals of nationalistic Mexican art. Instead he chose to integrate international styles into his work while maintaining his own colorful style that reflected Mexico’s ancient cultures.
The Marvelous Real, Surrealism Avant La Lettre
Preceding the arrival of André Bretón, surrealism was not formally known in Mexico; however, artists such as Frida Kahlo, Antonio Ruiz “El Corzo,” Agustín Lazo, Guillermo Meza and Juan O’Gorman, among others, were already presenting magical elements in their work in combination with the elements of everyday reality. When Bretón first arrived in Mexico, he described it as a surreal country, since he found many contemporary works that contained fantasy and anthropomorphic characters referencing the pre-Hispanic era and folk art. In 1940, the Mexican Art Gallery led by Inés Amor presented the International Surrealism Exhibit, organized by André Breton, Wolfgang Paalen, and César Moro; in this exhibition renowned European surrealists fused with Mexican artists. Surrealism continued throughout upcoming decades in Mexico with a large number of supporters, such as Rodolfo Morales, who painted magical scenes inspired by his native Oaxaca.
The Arrival of European Surrealism
The Spanish Civil War and World War II brought to Mexico important intellectuals, writers, poets, photographers, painters and actors seeking refuge from the unrest so that they could continue to work. Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Kati Horna and Alice Rahon established themselves in Mexico while still very young. They all arrived with impressive artistic backgrounds, having developed their own work while working with European surrealists. Leonora Carrington’s work is inspired by an internal, personal and magical world full of symbols where anthropomorphic beings dance and coexist in mysterious harmony. Spanish painter Remedios Varo suggests a dreamlike world, where fantastic landscapes and architecture merge with magical characters and objects. Alice Rahon had an affinity for abstraction: she shaped elusive images, frequently using the sgraffito technique. Hungarian photographer Kati Horna was trained in Berlin and Paris. She later reported on the Spanish Civil War arriving in Mexico along with the Republican émigrés. In addition to her photojournalistic work, in her so-called “stolen moments” she completed a considerable number of portraits including those of Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington.
New Trends in Mexican Plastic Arts: The Rupture
During the 1930s and 1940s, Rufino Tamayo and Carlos Mérida, originally participants in the Mexican Muralist Movement, began expressing themselves through abstract, geometric forms based on folkloric traditions and pre-Hispanic art. They established an open dialogue with international movements while still searching for a national artistic identity. Contemporary Gunther Gerzso worked as a set designer in the early stages of his career, later devoting himself to abstract painting.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, many factors were responsible for the strong changes that took place in Mexican art. Younger generations refused to adhere to canons dictated by the Mexican School of Painting; many of them having traveled and studied in Europe. The growth of private galleries provided spaces for new exhibitions and new dialogues, where younger artists confronted the older generation in important debates. They did not seek a particular style, but rather sought to break with the figurative and nationalist traditions in art that had been in place since the Revolution.
Photography first reached Mexico in the 1840s and has occupied an important place in the cultural sphere of the country ever since. This form of art was used to document pre-Hispanic architecture, the country’s entry into the industrialized era, and was considered a truthful witness of the Mexican Revolution. Photography also developed as its own art form.
The portraits presented in Mexico: Fantastic Identity, captured by some of the most renowned Mexican photographers, portray an intimacy between the artist and the photographer, and enable the viewer to get a sense of the individual, learn about their context, cross borders and travel in time.
Support for Mexico: Fantastic Identity is generously provided by Wells Fargo. Additional support is provided by the Robert Gumbiner Foundation, Arts Council for Long Beach and City of Long Beach. The exhibition is accompanied by a full color catalog.
Exhibition Related Event
Sunday, March 15, 2015, 11:30am
Emma Cecilia García Krinsky, curator of Mexico: Fantastic Identity, will speak about the exhibition. Free and open to the public
Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, Calif. 90802
Hours: Sun., Wed., Thurs. and Sat., 11:00am – 5:00pm, Friday, 11:00am – 9:00pm Admission: $9.00 General/ $6.00 Students (w/ID) and seniors (65+) Members and kids under 12 Free
Free Admission every Sunday sponsored by Target
Info: (562) 437-1689 or www.molaa.org
About FEMSA Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V.
FEMSA, is the largest beverage company in Mexico and in Latin America. FEMSA is the largest franchise bottler of Coca-Cola products in the world; and in the beer industry, through its ownership of the second largest equity stake in Heineken, one of the worlds leading brewers, with operations in over 70 countries. In the retail industry it participates with FEMSA Comercio, operating various stores, including OXXO, the largest and fastest-growing chain of convenience stores in Latin America.
About the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)
The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) was founded in 1996 in Long Beach, California and serves the greater Los Angeles area. MOLAA is the only museum in the United States dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art. Since its inception, MOLAA has doubled in size and continues to expand its permanent collection, ranging from works by Tamayo and Matta to Cruz-Diez and Los Carpinteros. With its physical expansion complete, MOLAA’s focus is on strengthening its position as a multidisciplinary institution providing cross-cultural dialogue.