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Mexican Printmakers 1920s–1950s

April 16, 2022–August 14, 2022

Gallery 213

One of the major social upheavals of the early twentieth century was the decade-long Mexican Revolution (1910–20). In the end, a constitutional republic replaced an entrenched dictatorship. During the post-revolutionary decades, as Mexican democracy began its difficult growth, a remarkable artistic outpouring followed. Through propagandist murals in public buildings and the distribution of printed images, art flourished as artists addressed the evolution of revolutionary ideas as outlined in the new constitution. Prints attacked Fascism and Imperialism, while promoting Indigenous rights, and educational and labor reform. Works also promoted and celebrated Mexico’s national heritage to educate the largely illiterate populace through visual storytelling. In the 1920s, murals by Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and José Clement Orozco—“Los Tres Grandes” (The Great Three)— received international recognition. Spurred by their success they created prints as an effective means of raising social awareness.

A little-known fact is the extent to which American print publishers participated in the post-revolution Mexican print movement. The Weyhe Gallery in New York championed Mexican art by commissioning and exhibiting prints in the 1920s and 1930s. The earliest lithographs featured mural details related to the revolution, thus creating powerful symbols of national identity. Taller de Gráfica Popular founded in Mexico City in 1937 and Associated American Artists in the 1940s furthered the dissemination of Mexican printmaking. Participants created powerful genre scenes drawing attention to the struggles of Mexican life. The prints generated as part of the post-revolutionary movement strongly influenced American Regionalism and the WPA prints of the Depression-era.