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Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910 - 1940 - RA

Roberto Montenegro Mayan Women, 1926, Oil on canvas, 80 x 69.8 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1941. Photo © 2013. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence.

Exhibition preview

MEXICO: A Revolution in Art, 1910 – 1940 will be on display in the Sackler Wing of the Royal Academy of Arts from July 6 to September 29, 2013.

The exhibition will examine the intense thirty year period of artistic creativity that took place in Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century. The turmoil of the revolution between 1910 and 1920 led to a period of profound political change in which the arts were placed centre stage.

Comprising over 120 paintings and photographs, the exhibition brings together works from both public and private collections across the Americas and Europe.

In 1910, the outbreak of revolution brought to an end the long reign of Porfirio Diaz who had held the presidency since 1876. Once the turmoil had settled, the subsequent politcal change ushered in a period often referred to as a cultural renaissance.

Under state-sponsored schemes, artists were employed by the Ministry of Education to further the political aims of the revolution; art was embraced as symbolic of the inherent creativity and industry of the nation and was, therefore, seen as representative of the principles of the revolution.

Figures such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros (los tres grandes) were at the vanguard of this movement.

Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910 – 1940 will highlight an extraordinarily productive and diverse period in the history of Mexico; a time when Mexico attracted large numbers of significant international artists and intellectuals who engaged with the political changes taking place, and responded to the rich and varied country they found on arrival there.

For many, Mexico was an unspoilt land rich with history, stunning scenery and a diverse population; it heralded a sense of discovery and a promise of adventure.

Work by significant Mexican artists will be placed alongside that of individuals who were affected by their experiences in Mexico. These include Josef Albers, Edward Burra, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Philip Guston, Marsden Hartley, Tina Modotti, Henrietta Shore, Paul Strand, Leon Underwood and Edward Weston.

Highlights will include Roberto Montenegro’s Mayan Woman, 1926 (Museum of Modern Art, New York); Diego Rivera’s Dance in Tehuantepec, 1928 (Collection of Clarissa and Edgar Bronfman Jr); Tina Modotti’s Workers Reading El Machete, c 1929 (Throckmorton Fine A, Inc, New York); Jose Clemente Orozco’s Barricade, 1931 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)…

…Edward Burra’s El Paseo, c 1938 (Private Collection); Jose Chavez Morado’s Carnival in Huejotzingo, 1939 (Phoenix Art Museum); Robert Capa’s Women in truck with banners supporting presidential candidacy of General Manuel Avila Camacho, Mexico City, June – July 1940 (International Centre of Photography) and a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo (Courtesy Sotheby’s).

The exhibition concludes in 1940, a momentous year in Mexican cultural and political life. 20 Centuries of Mexican Art opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, an important exhibition that demonstrated the elevated position that Mexican art had attained in the US by this time.

In the same year, Andre Breton organised the International Surrealist Exhibition at the Galeria de Arte Mexicano in Mexico City. Robert Capa, who was commissioned by Life to cover the presidential elections, also reported the death of Leon Trotsky who, having sough political asylum in Mexico in 1937, was assassinated.

Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910 – 1940 will reveal a dynamic and often turbulent cultural environment that included some of the most seminal figures of the twentieth century reflecting on their interaction with each other and their differing responses to the same subject: Mexico.

Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910 – 1940 has been organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Adrian Locke, exhibitions curator, Royal Academy of Arts.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Adrian Locke’s incisive text explores the artistic documentation of the dramatic changes wrought by the revolution, the government’s role in employing artists to promote its reforms, the emergence of a native modernism, and the remarkable contribution of European and American artists and intellectuals, including Eisenstein, Trotsky aand Andre Breton, to Mexico’s cultural renaissance.

Admission: £10 full price; concessions available; free for children under 12 and Friends of the RA.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.30pm); Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Tel: 020 7300 8000