7/10/2017 9:17 AM
June 25 marked the opening of Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950, an exhibition featuring masterpieces by Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo and many other of their contemporaries. The exhibition includes reproductions of three murals that are representative of Mexican muralism of the mid-20th Century. The Museum is able to recreate these large artworks through high quality digital projections that are complemented by in-depth interpretive materials to supplement more traditional gallery wall texts and object labels. The murals selected for this segment are: Rivera’s Ballad of the Agrarian and Proletarian Revolution Cycle of 1928–29 at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City, Orozco’s 1932–34 Epic of American Civilization at Dartmouth College and Siqueiros’s 1939–40 Portrait of the Bourgeoisie at the headquarters of Mexico’s Electrician’s Union.
The original mission of the muralist movement was not only aesthetic but also educational, in particular to disseminate social and political ideas to the public. The use of digital reproductions allows these images to engage their initial purpose while traveling to remote and diverse places, consequently reaching a much wider audience and broadening their original meaning and interpretation. The digital murals shown in Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950, are examples of the growing interest that, around 1928 to 1940, Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros showed in the use of photography and film as media to depict movement. Early murals were created in colonial and neo-colonial buildings, where the wall was being treated as a large canvas. The muralists shown in this exhibition considered the linear format of images on the horizontal wall and the idea of continuity, inviting the visitor to engage in active observation.
After a period of theoretical reflection and practical experimentation, Siqueiros developed the idea of a “pictorial cinematographic art” which aims to transcend the static limits of painting. The exhibition catalogue for Portrait of a Decade: David Alfaro Siqueiros 1930-1940, presented twenty years ago at the MFAH, included an essay by Mari Carmen Ramírez in which she analyzed Siqueiros’s incorporation of new materials and photographic montage for the conception of the mural in a given space. The fundamental objective was to make painting dynamic, which efforts culminated in the execution of Portrait of the Bourgeoisie, considered one of Siqueiros’s and Mexican muralism’s masterworks.
When creating Portrait of the Bourgeoisie, Siqueiros took into account the physical movement of spectators while climbing the stairs. The mural, located at the headquarters of the electricians’ union in Mexico City, had to be placed in a narrow space along a staircase to be viewed while in motion. The spatial effects and the visual deformations were to unfold as the viewer climbs up the stairs from one story to the next. Each segment was to appear individually, thus forming a sequence. In that idea, the mural in movement would engage the masses in a sensorial way.
Read the complete articles from Mari Carmen Ramírez [ICAA Record ID 1324142] and Olivier Debroise [ICAA Record ID 1324165] about the use of photography and in film by the muralists by visiting the ICAA digital archive.