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Texmex, oil paintings, Mexican Modernism

By Olivia Preston Subscribe to RSS | February 7th 2012 | Views:

The melding of American and Mexican culture goes way beyond simple cuisine, epitomised by the texmex style of food. Texas, after all, was a part of Mexico, as were large portions of the western part of the United States, including present-day California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona and parts of Colorado and Wyoming (how quickly we forget conquests!). Besides the irony of Arizona’s laws to stop illegal immigration (easier to declare war, and annex a chunk of land for yourself), the Mexican march into the southern parts of the United States continues. One potent symbol of the gradual demographic shift is the movement of Mexican Modernism, a broad and encompassing field that included in its ranks the likes of painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as well as photographers (Graciela Iturbide), sculptors and performance artists.

What were the historical roots of Mexican Modernism? Modernity in art circles is usually used in reference to an ideal that represents progress, the new and the achievement of a better world. In this sense then, Mexican Modernism has been viewed as the displaced people of Mexico, immigrants in the United States and in their native Mexico, trying to reason with the world and transform it for the better, drawing on native and indigenous methods of expression. In the U.S. these struggles for expression became known as the Chicano and Chicana artists, descendents of original Mexicans who had been displaced by conquest of Mexico in 1847. These original settlers lost their land and rights, but stayed on to eke out a living under a new state and government. Fast forward a hundred years to the 1960s civil rights movement, and the modernity movement found a leader in César Chávez, who organized people of Mexican descent in the U.S., called Chicanos and Chicanas, to fight for their right of self-determination. It was during this period that art was used to broaden their cause, most notably photography, murals and graphic art work.

The Mexican American artists who led the modernist charge included the likes of Adolfo Patiño, Louis Carlos Bernal, Roberto Gil de Montes, Felipe Ehrenberg, Ricardo Valverde, Graciela Iturbide, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Mónica Mayer. They were themselves part of more tightly-knit art groups such as Grupo No, Proceso Pentágono and Suma, which were mainly collective art groups that shared ideas and resources, much like The Blue Rider and the Impressionists in the early days. Their topic of examination, however, was what and how indigenous inhabitants of the Americas could be a part of the growing modern internationalism of the country, in particular Los Angeles, while still enjoying the rights to full self determination.

The topic is complex, with multiple approaches and ever-changing definition of identity, nationalism, archetypes and stereotypes. Hence a recent exhibition from the Museum of Latin American Art, in collaboration with dozens of museums around the United States, to bring Americans (and international visitors) the MEX/LA: Mexican Modernism(s) exhibition until February 5. Providing such a thought-provoking series of artworks into an increasingly important topic of conversation is not only a service to the community, but a service to the soul.

Olivia Preston - About Author:
Olivia Preston is passionate about everything on paintings and arts. When she's not having fun she writes on oil paintings. For more information on and oil painting reproductions you can visit

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