Exhibition Details

Location: Steele Gallery
Dates: June 1, 2007
to September 16, 2007


Nothing was more fashionable in 1930s New York than to own the latest etching, woodblock print or lithograph to arrive from Mexico City by Diego Rivera. His one-man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1933 was a command performance demonstrating what it meant to be on the edge of North America's artistic avant garde. He was the greatest among a large group of artists who wholeheartedly threw themselves into the production of murals and prints - such as Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo, and more - mythologizing Mexico's past, critiquing its present, and pointing to its future. Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920-1950 is the first comprehensive exhibition in years to present the work of these artists and their American and European colleagues working in Mexico at the time.

Mexico and Modern Printmaking is an exciting display of nearly 150 important lithographs, etchings and woodcuts by 40 artists who came to define a new brand of Modernism, native to Mexico - such as Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, Tamayo, Kahlo, Dr. Atl and their European and American colleagues in Mexico at the time, including Jean Charlot, Howard Cook, Caroline Durieux, and Elizabeth Catlett. Included are views of rural Mexico and its people, city life and workers, landscapes, portraits and studies, broadsides, important moments and figures in history, and surrealistic imagery. Foremost to be seen in the works of art is a struggle by the artists to show the meaning of being Mexican, the economic and political conflicts of the day, and a vision of the future for this fledgling society.

The 1920s - just a decade after the Mexican Revolution - gave rise to a drive toward modernism in Mexico and sparked the prolific wave of printmaking for the next 30 years. While art schools and cultural institutions flourished, debates about the country's political and artistic future were heated. Large scale public murals created by the likes of "Los Tres Grandes," or three greats - Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco - educated and inspired the people about their history, Mexican ideals, politics and society. The artists often created lithographs as part of the mural process, or as an adjunct to their particular post-Revolution "storytelling."

Soon, printmaking was central to a broad spectrum of political, cultural and artistic endeavors that captivated many outside of Mexico, as well as their fellow countrymen.

In addition to discussion of each of the artists and their work in the show, the fully-illustrated exhibition catalog contains three seminal essays on the history of printmaking in Mexico, the connection between Mexico and the New York art market up through World War II, and the interface of printmaking and contemporary politics in post-Revolution Mexico.

This exhibition is organized by Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. It is presented by Bank of America with major support provided by APS, Friends of Mexican Art and Phoenix Art Museum's Latin American Art Alliance. Educational program support is funded by The Arizona Republic. Promotional support is provided by La Campesina KNAI 88.3 FM.

Image Credits

Left: Zapata, Diego Rivera, 1932. Lithograph. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund from the Carl and Laura Zigrosser Collection, 1976-97-114. © 2006 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust. Av. Cinco de Mayo No. 2, Col. Centro, Del. Cuauhtémoc 06059, México, D.F. Reproduced by permission of CONACULTA/INBA. Center: Untitled (Red Volcano), Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo), c. 1921-23. Color stencil. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2003-8-1. Reproduced by permission of CONACULTA/INBA. Right: Tourists and Aztecs, José Clemente Orozco, 1934. Lithograph. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund from the Carl and Laura Zigrosser Collection, 1976-97-57. © Clemente V. Orozco. Reproduced by permission of CONACULTA/INBA.