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Latin American perspectives a program of comment and analysis about current Latin American problems and their historical setting. The commentator for these programs is Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Here now is Dr. Gardner. In our country. We often have what I would term an artistic surge. I'm thinking for the moment of the great popularity of the works of Andrew Wyatt. I'm thinking too of another artist grandma Lois's. And to Frank Remington and his work on the frontier and farther back still of Copley and stored that all of these individuals have produced artistic surges rather than artistic revolutions. I would rather turn now on to the one country in the western hemisphere Mexico which has known an artistic revolution. Art has long been a part of the life of the native Mexicans.
Indeed one is led to suspect that once upon a time in the long ago of prehistory some dark skinned native far to the south of us looked at one of the pieces of pottery in his home. And for all that he thought of it because it harbored his beans or his squash or any of the other edibles that were so important to him. He probably concluded that the exterior of it was exceedingly plain. And so he did something about it. I started a trend joined by others and soon there was a household primitive down to earth. Every day art enjoyed by vast numbers of the native Mexicans. Those same early Mexicans and that long ago that is prehistory. On a rigid religious occasions went forth. To lift their eyes to the sacrificial sights and to note that since last they were there a little
more sculpture had been done another painting had been produced and so they had in the elegance of their homes by the elegance of their homes as the case may be. And it then if occasion with art and in the ritual that was religion they had a further identification with art. Art was indeed a basic ingredient of the life of the native Mexicans. When the Spaniards came as indeed they did with Cortez and others they served to introduce European art standards and you have a great chasm between the native art and the Spanish art. And indeed there is no longer a national art call it Mexican art. You'll find for example if one goes to such as the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City to analyze the holdings that perhaps 95 percent of all the canvases there have to do with
religious objects. Not in terms of the gods of the Indians not in terms of the old order of a policy a stick religion. But these are of course the scenes from the Old Testament. These are the oil picturisation of miracles of the New Testament. These paintings depict the archbishops the bishops of Mexico and oh yes if you're wondering about the 5 percent of the holdings at the time Cardiff Academy. That doesn't represent religious themes. They fall into politics covering first of Viceroy event a captain general or indeed some other famous official straight from Spain. This you see is portrait painting. This you see is Biblically inspired art. This is European concepts thrust upon the new world. And so it continued not only through the late stages of the colonial period in
Mexico but in early years of independence as well. In fact for decades there was no change improvement or otherwise in Mexican art in days of independent Mexico. Mexico has no one to truly revolutionary periods in the last century but only one has had artistic significance related to it when 100 years ago. Water has and his followers were in open rebellion against the French invaders backed by Napoleon the third the invaders in the person of Max million and his hordes. There was no massing of public opinion. There was no elementary appeal to patriotism through any artistic media. It's true that 100 years ago the foundations of Mexican nationalism were being established but without benefit of this type of awareness of what Mexico was what the Mexican
was what the combination of the land and the people might become. However by the time one gets to the great revolution the one that the Mexican spelled with a capital R the revolution of one thousand ten we find that art has come to take its place significantly on the Mexican scene. The first person as I would view Mexican art history who has made this contribution was one named Jose got to look big. Posada Posada is not so commonly known as are those giants. Rivera and Bosco and secret us. In fact he is the antecedent of all of them. He is one who dying in one thousand thirteen is indeed a generation ahead of them living largely under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and in their dictatorship finding as so many others did there in Mexico and
indeed under dictatorships elsewhere in Latin America and in the world generally that they were limited in their expressions. And so he in the manner of a caricaturist depicted things that were attractive and interesting and yet provocative. He did for example what the dramatist what the novelist had been forced to do for a long time in Latin America. Concealed within an art form a message. For a long long time the person who had wanted to criticize government knew full well that he couldn't do it in an essay in a newspaper. He knew full well if he owned a newspaper that a pungent editorial was synonymous with closing up shop but the Dramatis could in the writing of his play took a plot within a plot could have been the interplay of characters a double meaning he could entertain and criticize at the same time.
This of course continues in the Latin American drama of today and even more markedly in the novel. But it was Posada who with his famed Calaveras our skulls introduced this type of double edged caricature type of art into Mexican life. Indeed if you wanted to become a collector of Mexican art I might suggest rather than try to round up canvases by the greater names that Posada is a more likely subject because he produced no fewer than twenty thousand pieces. But Posada was a precursor I say to Rivera to Roscoe to seek a dose. To meio and those who have followed that great quartet. When the revolution came in 1910 and following there was of course a bloody phase and this has introduced itself into the art the devastation of the old order. But in the early 20s there comes the beginning of a
true ARC revolution when the then minister of education a man named Vasco and sell us a philosopher or an educator a propagandist a revolutionary a man a vision serving as Minister of Education. I literally flung the challenge to the great artists of the moment saying I have walls and they in turn were expected to respond. We have the will and the peat and low the walls and the paint got together and Mexico began to have the great surge the surge that becomes a revolution in the area of mural painting. Now this is not the first time in the world that murals have been produced but it was as an artistic form a revival significantly mural painting. It is no coincidence that these revolutionary painters joining with the forward looking
liberal educator of us can save us used as their walls surfaces that were identified with the government when the economy with the ongoing revolution. When Rivera did his history of Mexico in murals on the national palace it was as though someone worked on the walls of our national capital. When Rivera worked on the rolls in the ceilings at the New School of Agriculture at chipping go in the Valley of Mexico he was identified himself not only with a new school. The hope of the future for the Mexican economy. But he was identified himself with that most basic of all elements of Mexican life. The production of food stuffs and the themes that one finds at shipping go are related to the School of Agriculture as a school of Agriculture was itself an expression of the ongoing revolution. When one finds
these artists and Rivera is used simply as the case study approach winning reputations abroad they are again doing murals that have historical perspective in them. Some other perspectives are universal as in the work of a Roscoe at Pomona. Some of his work at Dartmouth College and of course some of it became blindly blatantly propaganda stick in terms of something that was unwanted. I'm thinking for example of the rejected Rivera murals Rockefeller Center. Meanwhile in Mexico we have in the contributions of this generation of artists who come to fruition in the 1920s 30s and thereafter men who are not reproducing the art of Europe. Men who are not reproducing the art the Indians but who just as the
modern Mexican himself is an amalgam of the two. The meeting of Indian and European has come to produce an art that is truly Mexican. In other words the art revolution and it is revolution because of the tempo. It is revolution because of the quantity and it is significant because of the quality. This Art Revolution has been itself a major contributor to the growth of Mexican nationalism. This is evident in the continuing work that the artists of Mexico do to this day. But it is significant that the revolution that is itself run down in large measure politically and economically has now come upon called it leaner times in terms of the names and the production. But Mexico is not to be denied the fundamental truth it alone within the western hemisphere has had an artistic revolution.
This was a Latin American perspectives with Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Join us for our next program on Dr. Gardner We'll examine another aspect of life in Latin America. Latin American perspectives is produced and recorded by station WSI you Af-Am at Southern Illinois University and is distributed by the national educational radio network.
Latin American perspectives
Mexico's artistic revolution
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on art in Mexico.
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A series of comment and analysis about current affairs in Latin American countries.
Global Affairs
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Host: Gardiner, C. Harvey (Clinton Harvey)
Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-3-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:03
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Chicago: “Latin American perspectives; Mexico's artistic revolution,” 1968-02-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
MLA: “Latin American perspectives; Mexico's artistic revolution.” 1968-02-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Latin American perspectives; Mexico's artistic revolution. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from