Times & Places

Mexico: Other Aspects of the Mexican School of Painting (1920-1930)

Stridentism

The fame and visibility of the Mexican School of Painting, represented by the “Big Three,” often overshadowed other art movements. One of the most avant-garde movements of the time was stridentism, led by poet and public servant Manuel Maples Arce. One evening in December 1921, student and poet Manuel Maples Arce papered walls in Mexico City with his Manifesto actual núm. 1. This radical manifesto, influenced by Italian futurism, dadaism, and ultraism, advocated for cosmopolitan artistic modernization and the superiority of cities, technology, and industry. Arce sought the renewal of artistic language by incorporating urban elements as an essential aspect of nationalism, blurring the borders between everyday life and art. Important artists such as Ramón Alva de la Canal, Germán Cueto, and Fermín Revueltas were part of the movement, which included painting, photography, literature, printmaking, and music.

The movement’s members were key in the development of graphic design in Mexico, using materials and techniques that allowed for mass reproduction such as magazines, engravings, and photographs. During this time, printmaking reached new heights thanks to artwork by groups such as ¡30-30!, the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists, and, later on, the Popular Graphic Arts Workshop. First introduced by French artist Jean Charlot, printmaking was favored for its easy reproduction, and it was used to promote the groups’ revolutionary ideologies.

Aesthetic Alternatives, __Experimental Photography, and Visions of the Future

As the Mexican School of Painting developed a visual language closely related to nationalism, other forms of artistic expression were emerging and trying to position themselves as alternatives. Artists such as Manuel Rodríguez Lozano and Abraham Ángel diverged from the nationalist languages and created styles of their own. In some cases, the city held a primordial place.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Tina Modotti—an Italian who lived in Mexico between the years 1923 and 1930—were two artists fascinated by the advances of modernity in the Mexican metropolis. They not only photographed social movements, but also experimented with light and composition. Their analysis consisted of studying geometric shapes that evoked a new, avant-garde visual language. At the same time, Gerardo Murillo, known as “Dr. Atl,” used optics to research the effects produced by light and color on painting’s visual language, through which he suggested the renewal of this genre by incorporating futurist elements. Works of this period exemplify Mexican art’s innovation and exploration of different techniques.

Adapted from

  • México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant Garde, Gallery text [Other Aspects of the Mexican School of Painting; Aesthetic Alternatives; Experimental Photography and Visions of the Future; Stridentism; The Masks of Cueto], 2017.

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