Posts Tagged ‘Art’


Una Herencia Mexicana: Mexican Modernist Art

April 2, 2008

I have wasted the past few days fretting over what should be the inaugural post on Hoosierati. Since I live in Indianapolis it is easy to come by humanities-related events here. But too many people already think that Indiana is really just Indianapolis and I wouldn’t want to to encourage this narrow view of the Hoosierscape. While it’s true that the Indianapolis culture scene has representatives of all the major forms, modes, styles, genres, eras, etc, it by no means holds a monopoly on it.

Beginning on May 16 and continuing on through August 22, the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette in conjunction with the Purdue University Galleries will be presenting Una Herencia Mexicana, an exhibition of Modernist Mexican art.

I’m particularly fond of this as a first posting here, not because I have anything shimmering to say on the subject but because this one event showcases so many of the aspects of the humanities.

It’s art. That’s almost impossible to ignore. And while art is “art” and not “humanities” in strictly congressional senses of the words, an exhibition of art is more than the art itself. An exhibition is by nature commentary about art, about its importance and about other works and artists with which each piece is in conversation. Exhibitions are made up of pieces chosen around a guiding theme which almost inevitably leads to a defining statement.

Sometimes the message is nothing more than, “This art is important,” while leaving it up to the viewer to find out why. Sometimes, as in this case, the message is deeper, as the Art Museum says on their website about the exhibition:

Mexican artists of the 1920’s through the 1950’s had a huge impact on art throughout the Americas. They sought to create imagery of relevance to the Mexican people and move away from the avant-garde abstraction of the time.

Thus this exhibition, in addition to being “art,” is also “history.” Modernism is an important moment in the history of art, and while artists may still incorporate fundamentally Modernists principles or concepts into their work, as a movement Modernism was an artistic response to a certain time and, in this case, place. That time-place was Mexico after the Revolution but before social, political, and economic realities first began aligning themselves with the notions that the revolution was fought for.

In that sense, this particular exhibit is also sociology, political science, and the more humanist side of economics.

This exhibit is also multi-cultural and multi-ethnic.

If the study of art is important in understanding a culture, and I don’t think I would be alone in arguing that it is, there was probably an Indiana once where it wasn’t very important to understand the art of Mexico. That Indiana is part of the past now. A recent Sagamore report documents startling double-digit growth of Hispanic immigrants in Indiana. In some places Hispanics (and most of them are from Mexico) now make up 25% of the population. In other places it’s as low as 4% but even that is a substantial number considering where we were just seven or eight years ago. The art of Mexico is very quickly becoming a fully integrated part of the American art narrative.

More importantly the paintings of this era document political ideas that are still very much a part of the Mexican psyche. Some, like equality, anger over abuses of power, courage, sacrifice for one’s values, legitimate representation in government, are ideas that all American citizens will find familiar. Others, like the level of anger, the depth of despair, the stark and forthright acceptance of death as a part of life, are alien and possibly intimidating. But as clues to the Mexican psyche they are helpful in setting the stage for future conversations about and, more importantly, with new Americans.

Sidenote: I have no idea whether or not the painting in this post, “Zapata” by José Clemente Orozco, will be a part of Una Herencia Mexicana. I simply like it a lot and think it displays some of the things I’m talking about here: Mexican art history, Mexican political history, and Modernist art. This painting, if it is a part of the exhibit is making a short trip from its usual home at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Museum hours and address are:

Tuesday through Saturday: 11am – 4pm
Closed Sunday and Monday

102 South Tenth Street
Lafayette, IN 47905
(765) 742-1128
Fax: (765) 742-1120

This entry was posted by: Jim