Mexico art Discovery of Mexico: Fine Arts

Mexico Art

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Pre-Columbian art

Mexico attracts crowds for its remains inherited from pre-Columbian civilizations, that is to say, prior to the discovery of the continent by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Mayan and Aztec stone sculptures evoke civilizations that remain shrouded in mystery. The beginning of the recognition of a pre-Hispanic art is marked by the Stone of the Sun, dated to 1479. Formed of eight concentric circles, the disc dug in a block of lava contains precious references to the Aztec cosmogony. Discovered by chance in 1790, it is kept in the National Museum of Anthropology from Mexico City. It is necessary to add, to the sculpted works, the paintings elaborated from vegetable and mineral dyes, and sometimes from blood. The scenes depicted glorify the gods and the human sacrifices dedicated to them.

This first period of Mexican pictorial art is followed by colonial painting, a religious art that takes up the codes of European aesthetics. The churches and monasteries are full of scenes illustrating the different episodes of the Bible.

pictorial revolution

The third period in the history of Mexican painting follows the revolution of 1910. Easel painting is abandoned in favor of mural work. This pictorial phenomenon is supported by the government, which funds young artists to decorate the walls and facades of public buildings. Three mural painters stand out: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco.

The emblematic Diego Rivera (1886-1957) trained at the Beaux-Arts in Mexico City and then in Madrid. From 1913 to 1918, Rivera was inspired by cubism in his classical format paintings, but he quickly broke with this current to return to figuration. In 1920, he discovered in Italy an art of the fresco which upset his conception of the pictorial approach. Back in Mexico, he produced huge murals using traditional pigments common in pre-Hispanic times. He executes his first fresco, Creationin 1922, for the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (Antiguo College of San Ildefonso). A prolific painter, Rivera responds to official orders. With José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo, he composes on vast walls works in bright colors and a simplified style. This convinced Marxist intends to show the people the extent of the evils that plague Mexico. Through their social and political commitment, the muralists participate in the construction of a new Mexican identity.

José David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) became actively involved in the Mexican Revolution and put his work at the service of his political commitments. Unlike other artists of his generation, he remains optimistic about the evolution of Mexico.
Less committed than the latter, José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) strives to transcribe the universal condition of man, without distinction of borders. For Orozco, it is about showing the world the suffering caused by war and all forms of violence. In his dark works, he uses metaphors to express his indignation against war, corruption, injustice.

About the muralists

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) belongs to the second generation of Mexican muralists. It was during a stay in New York that he discovered modern painting and decided to teach this new movement in Mexico. In his work, the political message fades in favor of abstract and decorative forms. His painting underlines the difficulty of Mexicans to define their identity.

The fate of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is intimately linked to Diego Rivera. A free and modern woman, she was only 18 when she met her future husband, Diego, twenty-two years her senior, who encouraged her on the artistic path. From then on, they unite their pictorial and political commitment around their attachment to Mexico. They married in 1929. André Breton described Frida Kahlo’s art “like a ribbon around a bomb. Despite the pope’s attempts at surrealism, Frida categorically refuses to be assimilated into her group. Famous for her self-portraits, Kahlo is an artist with a recognizable style, reflecting her mixed and complex personality. Casa Azul (the Blue House), or Frida Kahlo Museum, located in the center of Coyoacán, is the birthplace of the painter. The couple’s friend and American photographer Lucienne Bloch has often immortalized the two artists, together or separately. Among all those who have portrayed Frida Kahlo, Bloch was able to capture her humor and the loneliness of her suffering.

Photographic tradition

Few countries in the world have generalized the use of photography since its infancy like Mexico. Very early on, the Mexican population, urban and rural, became passionate about this technique. It thus bears witness to his daily life, his social life or historical events. Born in Germany in 1882, photographer Hugo Brehme is Mexican at heart. His photographs, mostly in black and white, document the traditions of the country, its people, archaeological sites and natural landscapes. Following the photographer and activist Tina Modotti, whose work is hailed by the French surrealists, women play a leading role in the emergence of photographic poetics. Hugo Brehme encourages Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002) to take up photography. He is now considered one of the founders of Mexican photography. This autodidact invents a genre that combines documentary and imaginary gaze to reflect the Mexican soul. In his line, Pedro Meyer (1935) shakes the boundaries between fiction and reality. A pioneer of contemporary photography, we owe him the ZoneZero fund, which has become the first portal dedicated to photography. Pedro Valtierra (1955) founds the agency and the magazine ClaroOscuro, dedicated to photographic reports. He witnessed the Central American civil wars of the 1970s and 80s and the waves of migration that headed for Chiapas. His works are exhibited around the globe.

street art

Muralism has slowly established itself as a popular art. In the 1950s, the “Generación de la Ruptura” rejected the values ​​of muralism to turn to new, more cosmopolitan themes. Their goal is to broaden creative freedom and access pictorial universality by building bridges with their European counterparts. Of course, urban art is a direct extension of the first Mexican muralists. Rooted in popular culture, it is anything but a fad. In all the cities of Mexico, he continues to put himself at the service of daily reality. the street art experienced an explosion in Mexico between 2010 and 2012. It is now carried by neo-muralists led by Saner, Cix or Spaik, artists of international renown. Their frescoes draw on the colors and patterns of textiles, crafts and local legends. From now on, the districts of Roma Norte and Condesa concentrate the nuggets of urban art. One can appreciate collages by Groenewold, frescoes by Simtheone and the highly acclaimed Jorge Tellaeche. His dreamlike landscapes elaborated in pastel tones around dark faces are of great sensitivity. The artist invests in charities, in parallel with commissions he carries out for major brands. In the streets of the city, tributes to women follow one another in all possible forms. Messages left by Cristina Maya, originally from Mexico, or from Cuatrosiete, a first-class calligrapher, combine words and images.

Many mural works come from official competitions. On this occasion, Mexican and foreign artists are allocated a space by the municipality with the mission of raising awareness on essential themes, in particular the environment. Among the hundreds of frescoes thus produced, most are supported by sponsors. This explains the presence of brand names or small sneakers in these paintings.

Contemporary art

Carried by leading artists of contemporary art such as Gabriel Orozco and Francis Alÿs, the generation of artists born in the 1960s shook the Mexican art scene. The country is distinguished by its many collectives of artists who are very active on the national and international scenes. Their concerns and lines of work may be closely linked to the emergency situation experienced by certain regions of the country, but they also develop more general themes. Finally, for several years we have witnessed a revival of the graphic (engraving, lithography, xylography) in numerous workshops which prolong the heritage of the graphic popular of the 1930s and 1940s, but this time to create works more detached from the social struggle that prevailed at the time. On the local scene, Mexico City and Monterrey remain the strongholds of the national market, but the northern border towns (Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez) as well as Oaxaca have been increasingly active since the 2000s.
At the end of the 1980s, Orozco set up the Taller de los viernes or Friday workshop which participates in the training of innovative artists. Among them, Damián Ortega or Abraham Cruzvillegas who recently exhibited at the Carré d’Art in Nîmes. Subsequently, artists shunned by institutions undertake to set up independent spaces. The first, since closed, was the Panadería, by Yoshua Okón and Miguel Calderón.
The next generation includes Minerva Cuevas, Tania Pérez Córdova, Mario García Torres, or even Martin Soto Climent, all present on the international scene. Little by little, the contemporary art market is changing and is seeing the emergence of Mexican collectors.
Among the art galleries that set the tone, Kurimanzutto was born in Mexico City in 1999 under the impetus of Orozco. Held by the couple José Kuri and Mónica Manzutto, it began by representing artists from Taller de los viernes. A mixture of recognized artists and typically local dynamism.
In addition to galleries, fairs, private museums and alternative places are multiplying these days. the Jumex, the Zona Maco fair which brings together the cream of galleries, Proyectos Monclova and Labor. The young Parque Galería was set up by two thirtysomethings eager to make artists who had no voice in the matter heard: their star artist Yoshua Okónmais but also Allen Ruppersberg or Didier Faustino. The Bikini Wax collective symbolizes the tremendous energy that makes Mexico City an epicenter of the visual arts. Since 2013, the space directed by Cristóbal Gracia has invited artists from all over to take over the premises. The goal? Show art differently. Because in Mexico, all styles flourish!

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