An unusual exhibition of Mexican modernist painters and their revolutionary worksby James Woodall / July 5, 2013 / Leave a comment
Carnival in Huejotzingo, 1939, by José Chávez Morado © Phoenix Art Museum
Mexico: A revolution in art 1910-1940 The Royal Academy, from 6th July
Mexico’s greatest 20th-century poet, Octavio Paz, called his country’s revolution of 1910 “a return to the source… a rebeginning.” He was speaking as much about the art that the revolution inspired as the recovery of a spirit and sense of identity that reached back to before the Spanish conquest. An unusual summer show at the Royal Academy focuses on an explosive 30 years of Latin-American history through the works of key Mexican modernist painters: many of whom did their best work not on canvasses but on the sides of buildings.
This has not prevented the exhibition from bringing together free-standing pictures by the famous muralists, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros (los tres grandes, “the three greats,” as they’re known). There’s also a portrait by Frida Kahlo, who, though maturing at the end of the exhibition’s era, has come to define a certain mythic strain in mid-20th-century Mexican painting. Works on show by Philip Guston, Tina Modotti and others vibrantly demonstrate how excited many foreigners were by this radical art from so unexpected a source.