Culture: Visual Arts

Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940

The Mexican art show at the Royal Academy shimmers on the walls in glorious technicolour. These larger than life portraits aren’t afraid of exploring shades of pinks, oranges, greens and reds all mixed together.

And this riotous colour combination works beautifully, probably because they were done with a strong belief and a joyous use of these hues.

Mexico: A Revolution in Art

Even if you know nothing about Mexican art except possibly Frida Kahlo, it’s perfectly possible to walk around the exhibition simply enjoying the paintings.

But this is a perfect opportunity to educate yourself about Mexican art, as it’s a fascinating time period, showing how political upheaval and cultural revolution go hand in hand.

The exhibition starts in 1910, when political revolution had brought years of bloodshed and instability to Mexico.

The show displays the works by Mexican artists at the head of the artistic movement of the time such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and José Clemente Orozco.

The mural movement of Chicago in the 1960s was heavily influenced by Rivera, who left his beloved Mexico City to paint murals in the United States.

Interesting, Frida Kahlo’s contribution to the Royal Academy show is limited to just one tiny but beautiful self-portrait.

But maybe the curators wanted to show that there is much more to Mexican art than Frida, with her playful pictures of her with monkeys and tortured scenes of her wearing a thorn necklace.

In fact, while the show is a riot of colour, there is also a stark section dedicated to black and white photography, with horrific pictures such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s 1934 photo, Striking Worker Murdered, in which the blood seeps from a union leader’s lifeless head.

It’s no surprise that famous photographers such as Tina Modotti, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa came to soak up the inspirational atmosphere in Mexico.

Until 29 September, Royal Academy.

Words: Fiona Keating

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