press release

Drawing from the Museum’s collection, this exhibition explores the influence and inspiration of Mexican art on developments in 20th-century art. Organized into several themes, this exhibition takes you on a visual journey beyond national borders. It includes modern, abstract, and contemporary paintings, sculptures and works on paper by Mexican, South American, and North American artists as well as European artists working in Mexico.

Inspired by the archaeological discovery and exploration of Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures, artists of the 20th century recognized and appreciated the aesthetic importance and significance of these ancient cultures.

Following the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the establishment of a new government and constitution of 1917, three artists emerged as leaders of the modern Mexican art movement: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco. These and other artists were crucial in the development of muralist art creating a Mexican art renaissance fueled by a passionate desire to rediscover native culture. The new art fused elements of Mesoamerican, folk and modern art into a rich vocabulary of vital, expressive images.

Departing from the social realism of muralist painters, a new generation of artists working in abstract styles also looked to their cultural heritage for inspiration. Carlos Merida’s geometric figures and forms combined influences of Cubism and Surrealism with aspects of Mayan art. Rufino Tamayo, a Zapotec Indian, used vivid colors derived from native folk art to add to the mystical mood of his evocative and expressive images. Inspired by Mesoamerican temple ruins, Gunther Gerzso developed a style using large geometric colored forms that conceal and reveal deepening layers of unknown spaces evoking a sense of dark and mysterious chambers.

A blending of history and cultures emerges in the art of contemporary artists Jose Luis Cuevas, Vladimir Cora, Fernando Botero, Enrique Chagoya and Rupert Garcia among others in their appropriation of images from art historical and cultural sources. While Botero mockingly recalls the famous 15th-century Dutch painting by Jan van Eyck of The Marriage of Arnolfini, Chagoya’s work combines the ancient folklore and cosmopolitan upbringing in Mexico City with popular images from “north of the border.”