Carnival in Huejotzingo, 1939, by José Chávez Morado © Phoenix Art Museum
Art 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.
Film Wadjda On release from 19th July
Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) a resourceful 10-year-old in jeans and trainers, sits after school playing games with her father while her mother is out at work. Beyond the front gate women must be robed and veiled. Haaifa al-Mansour’s film—the first to be shot entirely inside Saudi Arabia—focuses on Wadjda’s reckless quest to own and ride a bicycle on the streets, an activity that was banned until April this year and only permitted now in chaperoned areas. It is also the first Saudi film directed by a woman. Constrained in public—al-Mansour had to shoot street scenes giving walkie-talkie directions to a male crew from a parked van—she reveals, often with a sharp wit, a society on the point of change. At school, for instance, the headmistress is a controlling glamourpuss whose affairs are the subject of widespread gossip, yet the girls cannot sit in the courtyard between lessons lest builders on an adjacent building glimpse them.
The film pedals along slowly at first but gathers speed for a surprisingly emotional payoff. With its sharp and surprising portrait of life…