In a bold attempt to chronicle the evolution of Mexican modernist art during the first half of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art is hosting “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950,” a show organized with the support of Mexico City’s Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes and that explores a period of remarkable artistic and political change in the Latin American country.
By staging this landmark exhibit, the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art is offering visitors the most comprehensive show of Mexican modernist art in over 70 years. “Paint the Revolution” begins by covering the turbulent 1910s, when artists working in Mexico infused their work with details gleaned from ancient and modern Mexican culture, and then moves forward to the 1920s and 1930s, when the United States’ flourishing modern art market drew Mexican artist northward, inspiring those artists to depict both Mexican and US themes, while exploring the interactions between Anglo and Hispanic cultures. The exhibit then goes on to highlight socially and politically motivated work from the 1930s to the middle of the 20th century.
Works by the likes of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo – Mexico’s most renowned artists – are included in the exhibit. Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait on the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States,” from 1932, contrasts the pain and misery experienced by Mexicans with the United States’ growing industrial power, while Rivera’s “Dance in Tehuantepec,” created in 1928 and rich with Marxist undertones, champions indigenous Mexican culture and the working class.
“Paint the Revolution” features a wide breadth of artworks ranging from portable murals and large and small paintings to prints, photographs, books and broadsheets. One incredibly engaging facet of the show is the digital projection of three breathtaking murals by Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros.
“[The exhibition] touches on all aspects of modern art in Mexico. Though the mural painting tradition remains that country’s best-known contribution to modernism in the visual arts, it is part of a much broader story. Artists were innovating in every possible medium, including painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography. Their work cuts across all classifications, from the epic to the lyric. Visitors to the exhibition will find many surprises,” says Matthew Affron, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, who was part of the team that organized the exhibit.
After the show ends its run at the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art on January 8, 2017, it will travel to Mexico City’s Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, where it will be on view from February until April.