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The great forerunner of Muralism, Jose Clemente Orozco, was the master of Jackson Pollock.  Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images.
The great forerunner of Muralism, Jose Clemente Orozco, was the master of Jackson Pollock. Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images.

Better Than Walls: Mexican Artists Who Made the American Art combative

The Whitney Museum in New York will host an exhibition on muralists who influenced the U.S. avant-garde, recognizing the influence of migrants in the history…

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In 1930, the painter Jackson Pollock made a trip to Mexico with his brother to visit the work of one of his masters and greatest influences, José Clemente Orozco, from whom he would collect all the violence and cruelty contained in his large-format works that emerged after the Mexican Revolution

Almost a century after that encounter, the Whitney Museum in New York will honor the great Mexican muralists who influenced avant-garde artists of the United States, with the strength of their social and political message in an exhibition unprecedented in the country, from February to spring 2020. 

"Especially during the time of the Great Depression, Americans began to see art as an obligation to confront the ills of society, and that was thanks to the Mexicans. Until then, the mural carried with it a very old tradition with characters dressed in Greek costumes and so on," she explained to Efe Barbara Haskell, curator of the exhibition.

Thus, among the more than 200 works, some of which have not been seen in the United States for decades, you can find not only works by Orozco, but also other first swords of the muralist movement such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, along with those of 60 other Mexican and North American artists. 

La violencia contenida en las obras de José Clemente Orozco.

A timely exposure

Entitled "Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945," the exhibition is divided into seven sections, each dedicated to an aspect in which muralists influenced avant-garde artists such as Jackson Pollock, and as the result of more than four years of research. 

"Pollock made a special trip with his brother in 1930 to see the mural Orozco had painted at the University of Pomona (California), rated the best painting in the West. He took pictures that he had in his studio throughout that decade," Haskell said.

"Americans began to see art as an obligation to confront the evils of society, and that was thanks to the Mexicans."

"You put the two together you can clearly see the stylistic influence and the idea of the life trauma that Orozco was able to communicate and that Pollock absorbed," he added.

The exhibition is most timely, considering the harsh rhetoric with which Trump has been hitting migrants since he became president. And it reinforces the enormous magnetism of the neighboring country in culture, product of racial and cultural mixing. 

Diego Rivera y las cadenas de montaje de automóviles.

"Fifteen years ago the understanding of art history would have changed (...), but now it is much more important because it shows the creativity and vitality produced by the free exchange between two countries", concluded the curator. 

In addition to the works of muralists, the Whitney will exhibit pieces by Isamu Noguchi, Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kalho and Philip Guston, among many others. A great occasion to tear down walls through murals. 

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