Paint the Revolution,
Mexican Modernism: 1915 - 1950
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Saturday, November 5, 2016
The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama
What constitutes the interior life of a nation? Its collective particulars, its grid of shapes and flow of dissolutions? What and where are the fires that feed the shapes that appear before our eye and ears? Equally important, what are the origins and characteristics of those repressive forces that try with all their power to eliminate the fresh articulation of work that will redefine and transform a country’s collective life.
This is a great show of mostly Mexican artists who used the tools of the new modernism to fight, educate and redefine the country’s life and future in the 20th Century. First, the exploitive power of new industries the institutional and politically repressive presence of the Church had to be confronted. The artist radicals – many of their names now so familiar - made use of an arsenal that included radical European models of socialist and communist organization, radical aesthetics – political murals and the proliferation of satirical woodblock cartoons - as well as radical approaches to teaching art in the schools. Different from European models, Mexican artists explored the use of Aztec and Mayan architecture and myth to imaginatively integrate the past into the present. Euro-Surrealism also became a tool in the mix. The result I would describe as a towering inferno producing new shapes, visions et al including dead ends and failures. Whatever were the outcomes, the show is a dramatic testimony of artists and poets who revolutionized their communities to seize the levers of looking and shaping the history of both Mexico and its international position in the larger world. Many will say the larger vision failed. I am sure I am not alone to count this show a most powerful success. Among I want to bet the show will challenge today’s gallery models as socially and politically useless.