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Arts, Art

David Alfaro Siqueiros, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Jose Clemente Orozco, Mexican arts, Edward Weston

Mexican arts, with the exception of folk arts, generally followed European patterns during the colonial period and the 19th century. The Mexican Revolution was instrumental in fostering a new sense of nationalism and experimentation at the School of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros belonged to a group of painters who decided that content and form were as important as aesthetics. A number of these artists, including Siqueiros, were political activists as well as artists who aimed to inspire the lower classes in Mexico by creating paintings that dealt with revolutionary themes. They encouraged the development of public murals, so that ordinary Mexicans could view the work of leading artists. Painting with a permanent medium on large walls, these muralists—including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Juan O’Gorman—dominated the Mexican art world in the 1920s and 1930s.

Other artists pursued a different tack. Frida Kahlo painted numerous small self-portraits which captured her own vision in strange, often surrealistic presentations. Kahlo fractured her spine and pelvis in a traffic accident as a teenager and began to paint while recovering from her accident. The constant pain Kahlo suffered due to her injuries, as well as her sadness over being unable to bear a child, are reflected in much of her work.

In the 1930s Rufino Tamayo combined native folk themes with European art forms such as cubism. His work reached a much larger foreign audience than that of other Mexican artists, particularly in Europe and New York City. Tamayo was an outspoken opponent of the painting style of the revolutionary muralists, arguing that their focus on political and social themes came at the expense of artistic quality. The intense colors of many of Tamayo’s paintings and his use of flattened two-dimensional figures—a style that is common in Mexican folk or pre-Columbian art—gave his work a distinctly Mexican flavor.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who associated with some of the leading creative photographers in the United States, such as Edward Weston and Tina Modetti, became the first Mexican photographer to reach a large international audience. He was influential in promoting photography as an art form in Mexico.

Article key phrases:

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