Speaking of Mexico: English ; 5
Speaking of Mexico. Radio television the University of Texas in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters presents speaking of Mexico. Professor Lauren Mosley is professor of art at the University of Texas. Professor order extraordinaire National University of Mexico and former member of the Latin American Studies Institute the University of Texas. Professor Mosley will be discussing Mexican art with two of his colleagues from the University of Texas professor Mark Baron off an art educator and distinguished printmaker and Professor Terrence Grier an art historian whose specialty is in the pre-Colombian field and more particularly in my own art. I expect that most of you who have bothered to tune in on this program will know something about Mexican art already and I expect that what you will know will have to
do with the great figures of Rivera and a Roscoe who seem to dominate the picture of Mexico until recent years. Since the death of a Roscoe a number of quite interesting new developments are taking place in Mexico and it is this later contemporary or avant garde Mexican art that we're going to be talking about for the most part. However perhaps it is worthwhile trying to say a few things about the art which existed before the great art of the Mexican muralist the art which seem to dominate Mexico from the end of the revolution. The over gone period until perhaps the end of the Second World War. And I wonder Mr. Burns off if you would like to start off by saying something about the art of Rivera and these other man in particular perhaps about the political implications of some of their work. Well first the Mexican in your lists and this was a
mural movement in the beginning was directed. It was an art that was meant to serve the people particularly their programme of political change economic change and social change and the art was was supposedly an art that would be available to people who were not trained in the European mode of painting that was prevalent in the 20s. And so while Europe was in ferment as far as the aesthetics were concerned the aesthetic. Revolution didn't occur so much in Mexican art except in that the mural developed and particularly with the big three of Arrow school Rivera and secure us. The subject matter of Mexican painting of course was very different from that or the absence of subject matter in Europe and the fact that it was
a painting done for the Ministry of Education and done in public buildings meant that it conformed to to a large extent and reflected the the attitudes of the Mexican government the enlightened Ministry of Education of the period. But what about the other side of this art. What about the form that it took. Mr. GREENER this art we've mentioned is dominantly mural art the. Painting these murals was in Fresco and it took them several several hard tries to develop the fresco technique. Their amusing stories of attempts to recreate this lost fresco technique impregnating the plaster with all kinds of oils and so on. But gradually the technique was perfected. The problem in increasingly a problem was the fact that most of the early murals were painted on very old walls in old schools or old buildings converted to use as administration buildings for the government. And after the
technique of fresco painting was perfected still the walls often were full of moisture and so on. Since. Some of these murals are now 30 years old or so. The walls have become increasingly dilapidated behind many of them and require a lot of fear. I remember Rivera wants talking about the fact that someone had reported that to Pingo seem to be falling apart. Seemed not to be at all concerned he simply said Well I painted it in an old building that was in bad condition to begin with and when it falls down I suppose that they will build a new building for some young man to paint in one of the interesting things about the U-19 twenties was that these modern artists and although they seem to not be like the modern artists of Europe they were not certainly old hat or conventional in the usual way. One of the interesting things about their painting was that they had to do this art on old walls. And I think that perhaps this influenced
the pharmas sometimes as well as the fact that they were they were thinking about fresco and turned their minds back naturally to the Italians to people like Black Giotto and others. But were there not other other sources for material for subject rather than the revolution itself. Would you care to say a thing about that Mr. Brown. You're probably referring specifically to the Indian. Background where the forms perhaps were more geometric particularly in the murals we find a certain realism and yet smoothing out of the individual anatomical areas into a somewhat monumental expression which is very easily recognized as Mexican mural art. What about the folkloric elements in the folklore elements are especially stressed by Diego Rivera who really made his reputation on folklore. We tend often I think to overemphasize the political character of this art
which was a strong element of say the art of carols particularly in the 30s but the original mural art was poetic often concerned with natural things the elements and so on. And after nine hundred twenty six with the entry of the regime the art of most of these men saw a rascal for example. Tended to cut down on political attitudes and emphasize folklore or. Or regional costumes and customs of Mexico. Of course in the early stages these men turn to the Mexican past in all of its farms the Mexican world around them for subject far far farms. One of the interesting things to me was the manner or the the timing of in Rivera's painting the introduction of modern farms when the peasant seemed to disappear and the man in overalls often with a hammer and sickle
began to come into the painting it was about this time that Rivera shocked the world by moving out of his house full of idols an old Mexican type house and into a red structure on stilts which had been built for him in the international mode by a young young architect. This of course was simply a part of their attempt to make this painting of theirs truly a part of contemporary Mexico. I think we While there certainly was a political and I think we often overemphasize it the art of. Say particularly was humanitarian without being very specifically political. Even the art of the secure OS which he intends to be political has a strong humanitarian basis without specific political ideals. In most cases yes of course he's not he's not in jail at the moment because of his painting activity that he's simply paying for political activity which he regards as an important part of his own his own life. There are also of course men who did not paint
murals. There was a very fine group of easel painters men like Carlos Marriott who did small pictures. Castellanos who who painted his finest pictures in an extremely small scale. And then what about the what about the graphic artist of that scene Mr. Baron off that in the graphic arts the revolutionary ideas of the 900 20s seem to have continued longer. Well yes it seems that the the art form that we don't know is graphics particularly the use of the woodcut was very strong. Form of art in that it carried the traditional idea of the Kerr career which was a kind of penny broad sheet of Bell Labs or satirist or some doggerel verses that the peasants could comprehend. This is part of the continuing idea of the folklore and was taken up very strongly by an
earlier man Posada. Do you know anything about the saga went to region. Certainly very popular artist with all the later mural painters digger Rivera and Roscoe both look back to him as one of their predecessors and admitted their debt to him frankly. Actually they present our present knowledge of Posadas almost entirely due to the enthusiasm which these men had for his work. All of them claim that as boys they really were not interested in the art lessons they were having in San Carlos and used to hang around watching the old man do his carvings or his his his engravings directly on Metal I'm not sure how much truth there is in that Mr Brown. Well I don't know if Assad died in 1913 and I really don't know when these other men started. Whether they were active in that part of the century. However the push saga died
and his his art really went into eclipse until Josh Harlow rediscovered him and brought him to the attention of the Mexican public and the Mexican artists and from 19 20 on we have this resurgence of the graphic techniques in 1037 specifically a group of artists formed a group known as the type that offical popular lar. And in this group we find somewhat a political overtone yet. Together with the folklore of Mexico expressed in the wood caught of course the lithograph is one of the reasons for the for the success of the Thai Air and for its continuing liveliness is the fact that these were used not just for exhibitions not used as illustrations except for very cheap books which were sold at it at the lowest possible price in order to help in getting rid of illiteracy. But some of the more
violent of these graphic works were used for propaganda of various sorts governmental for advertising for a billboard for that kind of thing. Of course the Homo the whole expression of the Mexican his freedom to express himself on political matters has has varied with the regimes during the Oberg own regime was very friendly to the artists at least in the beginning although he later described their art as fake ugly ism. During the Kiowas period most of these men actually lost their walls. Cicadas had to leave the country in exile or Roscoe had no jobs he came up to this country and worked in California and in New York and even Rivera was hardly able to return with perfect freedom to Mexico until after the sort of success the scandalous success which he had in this country by the time of the Second
World War Of course these men were were great well-known international figures and all of them came back to work in Mexico. It was about the end of the Second World War that they had for the first time some fine modern spaces provided for them in the buildings which were put up as a sort of window dressing for a rather corrupt regime that of President al Amman that famous series of buildings which we call the University City. I wonder if you'd like to say anything about this architecture and its relation to the art history to this striking architectural complex known as the universal University City. Was a great opportunity for the mural is of course because it provided them with new walls for the first time really on a grand scale and also for the first time large scale walls outdoors. This is what the kero said always insisted upon the walls be outdoors where the masses could see them so many of the early murals
are inside buildings where the masses could scarcely penetrate. The walls were treated in some new ways to their mosaics and all kinds of new materials tiles and stone mosaics added to the walls. Sometimes in relief. So the effect is something new and modern. Still this carries on a tradition of mural painting that goes back into the 1920s in a sense. It's the last gasp of the great mural movement. And in a sense perhaps something new to it still is so new that we can't tell what the next phase will be. But it's the last statement by so far by the greats of carols for example. And of course Roscoe it's hard to believe hard to remember but a Roscoe died in the late 1940s. And by that time Rivera's art. Was already quite predictable and in a kind of decline as far as its influence
on younger people was concerned. The two great figures who seem to be emerging at that time although they were not young men. They were vying for positions of importance in Mexico where the figures of cicadas and Tomei Oh they are very different figures. I wonder if Mr. Brown often would like to say something briefly about cicadas. Six years of course is probably one of the more dynamic painters. His art is somewhat allied to the Expressionist techniques expressionist. It's not a form of Europe and yet it's distinctly Mexican. I think security is probably the one artist who we think of as has more political in nature perhaps than a ROSKO particularly because of his lions with left wing parties. He's also always been curiously insistent on the third dimension.
And those people who are shocked at this in his paintings it should not be so shocked or surprised that simply a part of his statement and you've either got to take this or leave the whole man alone in opposition to him is that the figure is the figure I HAVE TO MY Oh Mr. Grieger to my was distinct in Mexico and as a matter of fact has been under a cloud in Mexican circles for some time. Because they considered him International and to be international was to be non Mexican to the Mexicans in the last few decades. Actually tomorrow probably is a sincere and it seems to me to be a sincere and really completely Mexican artist in spite of the internationalism of his art and of his life. He spent a great deal of his life in New York. Still his his style and his topics are deeply rooted in Mexican ideas and Mexican
artistic styles he grew up as an artist that is working in the national museum doing ethnic ethnological or at the graphic drawings of earlier Mexican art pre-Colombian Mexican art which has deeply influenced his style probably more directly than has pre-Colombian art influenced any of the other great Mexican artists to Myal also is important for his loyalty to the easel painting. He's never been a great painter he's done a number of murals but they all turn out to be strongly in an easel tradition. And this easel tradition seems to be the one that has suddenly triumphed in the last few years. The mural movement has declined and easel painting has returned with a vengeance in Mexico. Of course there have also been some changes in the general political climate in Mexico and the
imprisonment of secured OSS has meant that the that the more active politically minded artists have boycotted some of the large exhibitions and we now are seeing on the part of another group of artists a kind of reaction. We're only seeing one side but this new side that we now seem to be seeing in Mexican painting is extremely interesting. It is not so different from what one might expect to see in Italy are in Scandinavia. It's quite like some of the so-called abstract expressionism in our own country. But it is rather a new thing. It's rather strange to see this now in Mexico. They have a very fine big bi annual show there which includes painting from all of the American countries and it's been very interesting to see the new directions which Mexican painting now seems to be taking Mr. Brown off what is your impression of this painting.
Now the painting at the moment I think is quite international in its character. The sculpture less so and the graphic arts a little less so I think the graphic arts particularly carries on with the tradition of genre or art perhaps more than any of the others not in painting we have the influences coming from the United States and Paris quite strongly. There is still I Mexican flavor in the color coloration but the forms are really International in character. What about what about the painters themselves. Do you distinguish any interesting new figures. But I would agree we're speaking of internationalism and we can pick out some international tendencies even among the painters lives for example. One that I particularly admired the center row whole Catalonian from Barcelona who's been active in Mexico since his 20s.
And there are other important Spaniards and other. Europeans active now in Mexico. Felix Candela is Spanish for example. The Great Architect. So there is this actual infusion of international blood and ideas into Mexican art. Of course one of the interesting things is that most of the of these young men were painting in quite a different manner until quite recently. And some of them are very young. The most famous of them perhaps is the artist quite of us who is not. He is within the general tradition let's say of Hispanic satire of Ghajar even of men like pasada or of an earlier Mexican rule us. There's a young man who has more than one young man named Coronel what a sculptor and painter. And there and there are others. What about other expressions than the painting Mr. greater.
What about architecture or are you just about architecture particularly seems to me to be vigorous in Mexico these days with all kinds of new dramatic possibilities being exploited in the use of concrete. Felix Candelas constructions in concrete comparable to the famous ones of nervy in Italy or other international movements are one of the only one of the exciting developments in Mexican art. Mexican architecture. Has always emphasized color and texture more than the more sedate North American architecture. And this is probably best known to us in the university city which has used the mural mosaic and uses of colored stone and various techniques of textures on the surface to enliven their buildings. What about sculpture.
Mexican sculpture particularly in this past decade is be coming rather closely related to architecture as a decorative member. I think this is one of the significant factors about American Mexican architecture in that they use of sculpture is so predominant today. Yes of course. We're even now getting some religious oughta get in Mexico religious architecture. The one the one part of the Mexican past which they had disowned for so long was a colonial. I don't know whether there is much relation between the the Mexican baroque and and some of the new decoration which one finds in contemporary buildings but one might sense something of the sort. Mr. GREENER would you make any kind of prediction about the about the next direction in Mexican art. It's always difficult to say which way an art movement is going to go but I think we can be pretty sure that internationalism will continue to be a dominant trend in Mexican art
and in Mexican art architecture and and all its related arts. I think this is inevitable with the development of middle class ideals which is so strongly evident in Mexico and the increasing industrialization and its. Consequent increasing wealth in Mexico that the isolation and peasant folklore ideals will become more and more sentimental ideals with a consequent increase in the urban abstract international ideas that we see today. Of course life in Mexico Mexico itself has changed tremendously since the 1920s since the time of OBRA gone and the and this earlier revival. I think perhaps then if we might I might sum up some of the things that we've said this evening. We could say that in Mexico for a number of years following the
Mexican Revolution there was a very fine significant expression which was quite Mexican which was different from that of the rest of the world which was political which was monumental which tried to look to the Mexican past in the contemporary Mexican life for its subject. That this art was not only involved in the political life of contemporary Mexico but. Quite subject to it and that it had the riparian in which it flourished and periods in which it seemed to be in disfavor and had no great public support and it would seem fair to say that while what seems to be happening in Mexico now and not just in the art but perhaps in the whole modernization of the Mexican life. Is International is new is fresh is still not too certain Not too well defined. It is in the hands of a number of promising young men. We should not forget
that political winds may change in Mexico and the political winds may affect the kind of painting that is looked on with favor and encouraged in Mexico but certainly even though the great figures of the 1980s are now no longer with us are now no longer active with us. We can look forward to another period I'm sure a significant development and activity in Mexican art in architecture in painting in city planning. In all of these various forms besides Mexico about which we've been talking this evening there of course are a number of other Latin American countries and in all of these countries practically there has been some sort of interesting art movement ever since the 15th century since the earliest days of the Conquest. There are some interesting parallels between the arts of these peoples and the art of our own country and that of Mexico and some rather interesting
differences also between them and between Mexico and themselves. Not all of these countries of course have had the same revolutionary history the same recent revolutionary history that we find in Mexico. And so there has not been except for brief periods when the artists of Latin America were under the strong influence perhaps of CKD hosts who live there for a while or Orozco or of Rivera. There has not ever been quite the didactic revolutionary school of art that we find in Mexico. There was no Renascence comparable to that of the 1920s in the in Mexico City. But since the since the 19th century since the period of independence for these countries there are in many ways has been parallel to that of Mexico and parallel to that of our own country previous to that of course on the West Coast there had been a wonderful Indian expression of those great cultures the Andean
cultures of the eastern part the Indians that had been simply very primitive people as in some places they still are today. And during the colonial period particularly in Ecuador in Colombia and in Peru there was not only excellent architecture strongly influenced by European models but some local schools of painting particularly in places like Cusco all of this gave way in the 19th century to a kind of internationalism very much like the later form of that same thing which we find today in those countries as here in the United States in the 19th century religious painting. Gave way to nationalistic painting painting of the history painting and sculpture of the events of their own revolutions painting and and sculpture portraits of the important liberal leaders the generals and men of that sought. There was a lot of architecture largely when it was elegant under the influence of
France when it was practical under the influence of this country. R R England there were parks and squares cities beautiful 19th century cities were built. This has been Mexican art with Professor Loren Mosley Professor Mark Baron off and Professor Terence grader from the University of Texas speaking of Mexico was produced by RNC Norris and directed by B W Crocker eyed Radio-TV the University of Texas under a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters.
- Speaking of Mexico: English
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- This series discusses issues related to Mexican life, government, and culture. This is the English-language version of Speaking Of Mexico.
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