Graphic Mexico After the Revolution

June 12, 2009
By

JENNIFER GILLESPIE

JP women curate sister shows of photos and prints

Eclectic and multinational, Jamaica Plain’s community of artists, educators and political activists of-fers a hint of the kind of creative environment that existed in post-revolutionary war Mexico of the 1920s to the 1950s. This is the world that curators Karen Haas and Elizabeth Mitchell recreate in two exhibitions that opened on May 30 at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibitions highlight photography and graphic arts during Mexico’s cultural renaissance of the 20th century.

As they approached the debut of “Viva Mexico! Edward Weston and His Contemporaries” and “Vida y Drama: Modern Mexican Prints,” Haas and Mitchell, both Jamaica Plain residents, reflected on their exhibitions.

“The period that followed the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920 was artistically daring and politically charged, attracting artists and writers who were drawn to the country’s climate, landscape, and rich heri-tage,” said Haas. “Mexico was an exciting place to be at that time for American photographers Edward Weston and Paul Strand, as well as for Mexican artists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, whose works celebrate the rebirth of Mexico’s indigenous identity,” she added.

Haas has lived in JP for more than 20 years and has spent the past several months organizing “Viva Mex-ico!,” which features rare and iconic photographs by Weston and Strand, as well as works by Tina Modotti and Manuel Alvarez Bravo, drawn primarily from the Lane Collection.

Haas called the exhibition “a wonderful opportunity for visitors to experience Weston’s stunning Mexican photographs firsthand, many of which are rarely seen platinum prints taken in the period before he made his classic black-and-white images of peppers and shells.”

Complementing “Viva Mexico!” is “Vida y Drama,” curated by Mitchell, who also teaches a course on modern Mexican art at Massachusetts College of Art and has lived in JP since 2007. The exhibition showcases bold, socially conscious Mexican prints from the 1920s to the 1950s that played a role in the formation of modern Mexican visual style.

“Artists gravitated toward printmaking as a means to explore the pre-Hispanic past and indigenous visual traditions, and to experiment with American and European avant-garde styles,” said Mitchell. “Their prints gave form to the ideals of social, racial, and economic equality that fueled the Mexican Revolution.”

Prints by some of Mexico’s finest artists—Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Leopoldo Méndez and Alberto Beltrán—are included in the exhibition.

Exhibition wall text is in Spanish and English. Public programs, including gallery talks in Spanish and English––take place throughout the run of the exhibitions. Visit www.mfa.org for dates and times. Addition-ally, a tour of the Museum’s collection is offered in Spanish on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.

Both exhibitions are on view through Nov. 2. JP residents can reach the Museum at 465 Huntington Ave. by taking the Green Line “E” train to the MFA stop, the Orange Line to Ruggles or bus #39 to Ruggles Street.

The writer is public relations editor at the Museum of Fine Arts.

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