Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mexico: a Revolution in Art, 1910-40

Until 29 Sep 13
Rivera’s Dance in Tehuantepec, 1928

Early 20th-century revolutionary Mexico is characterised by chaos, despondency and bloody civil war, but it also unleashed a surge of artistic production. The revolution began in 1910 as an electoral movement to overthrow Porfirio Díaz and his 30-year presidency, igniting a period of armed warfare. 

The relatively stable governments of the 1920s introduced reforms that promoted literacy, nationalism, citizenship, hard work but also violent repression of Catholicism and other dissidents. Art was enlisted to serve Mexico’s revolutionary cultural transformation and Mexican Muralism was born. 

Adrian Locke, the curator of “Mexico: a Revolution in Art, 1910-40” (6 July-29 September), persuaded the Royal Academy “to take on a show that perhaps they wouldn’t normally do” (the RA’s only other exhibition on Latin American art was in 1974). In Mexico, artists began to “experiment with nationalist images” and “Modernism takes a different direction altogether; it becomes much more polemic and political”, Locke says. 

“I think something can be learned by looking at art being made in Mexico at the time, and seeing what role, if any, it plays in the progress of Modern art.” The show features Mexican Social Realist works never before seen in the UK, such as Diego Rivera’s Dance in Tehuantepec, 1928, and work by Francisco Goitia, a lesser-known artist on the staff of the revolutionary general Pancho Villa, who documented decomposing bodies left after public hangings. 

However, slightly fewer than half of the works on show are by Mexicans. Locke says: “The exhibition works in two parallels: one is the Mexican art being produced at the time, and then there are the Europeans and Americans who come and respond to what they see, and sometimes influence the direction that art takes... 

The idea is to show how Mexico attracted these significant artists.” Laurie Rojas Categories: Thematic Modern (1900-1945)

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