Mexican Modernism – The Painted Wall

Posted: October 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

A long overdue corrective, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945 shifts the historical gaze of “American” art. Rather than situating Europe as the sole center of Modernism, the exhibition positions Mexican Modern artists as the school many US artists were following, not least for their influence in the country’s socio-political realm. Themes which centered Indigeneity, celebrations of the rural landscape, and visions of Mexican identity that deemphasized European heritage, all the while denouncing the violence of nationalism, were among those that most influenced US artists. 

The curatorial thesis accounts for the transit and direct exchanges of artists working in both countries. José Clemente Orozco for instance, was the first of the muralists to visit the US in 1927, and produced murals in California and New York. His work had a significant impact on that of artists including Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, and Jackson Pollock. Through strategic juxtapositions, we see the trace of Orozco’s broad and long brushstrokes in Lawrence’s pointed ones, and in Charles White’s geometrical compositions. A particularly extraordinary pairing is of Orozco’s paintings with Lawrence’s Migration Series, revealing the social awareness of both artists in their subject matter.

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