Through paintings, sculptures, photos and videos, ‘Mexique’ offers an intensely rich journey into a pivotal period of history.
You know Frida Kahlo’s iconic paintings and you’ve heard of her husband, Diego Rivera. But beyond these two names, most are pretty clueless when it comes to Mexican art. Thankfully, the Grand Palais has stepped in to fill the gaps with a journey into time and space, a gigantic, flourishing panorama of Mexican artistic life from the pre-revolution to the 1940s.
Nourished by the European avant-garde art movements, from symbolism to surrealism, Mexican artists were driven the desire to founder a ‘national’ art. At the heart of this narrative is the blood-thirsty revolution that spread through the country, as seen in Francisco Goitia's 'Zacatecos Landscape with Hanged Men II'. Political and social upheavals multiplied between 1910 and 1920 and permeated the aesthetics of the artists.
Paintings, sculptures and photographs from this artistic golden age are addressed to the common people, who also seem to be the principle subject. Self-portraits depict the spirit of a population in revolt against a dictatorship, who remained steadfast and full of hope. Builders, craftsmen, soldiers, merchants, families, dancers, musicians and walkers reappear continuously. The paintings in the ‘Encounter of Two Worlds’ room, like Lorca’s ‘Assassinated by the Sky’ are at the will of an industrial and urban revolution, which although suffocating, does not stifle their creative spirit.
In a world propelled towards its own hybridisation, between tradition and revolution, the strong woman becomes a reoccurring symbol, whether in the photos of Lola Alvarez Bravo or Tina Modotti, it is the Mexican woman’s agility and solidity that makes her a muse. In memorialising a time of intense sacrifice, these sacred works give us a unique glimpse into an unfamiliar and sensual world.
TRANSLATION: MEGAN CARNEGIE