Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and Frida Kahlo are among the most notable names in the world of Mexican art and now, thanks to an enormous exhibition, works of modern art by these masters and many more are now on view in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) has long been a leader in the collection of Mexican art in the United States, starting in the 1930s when the museum exhibited two Diego Rivera murals that eventually became part of the museum’s vast permanent collection.
Those works and a host of others are the inspiration behind the museum’s latest temporary exhibition, Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950, which brings more than 200 magnificent works of Mexican art together to explore a period of incredible cultural change.
Exhibition Fast Facts
- Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950 runs now through January 8, 2017 in the Dorrance Special Exhibition Gallery
- A ticket to the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes access to the special exhibition
- The exhibit comprises 250 works by 70 artists like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco and Rufino Tamayo
- An itinerary of special events run throughout the exhibition, including a Día de los Muertos on October 28
Paint the Revolution Overview
The works comprising Paint the Revolution were created during the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920, and then on up to 1950.
Browsing the exhibit is a visual history lesson. The works within the gallery — everything from digital murals to easel paintings to photography — paint a picture of the country’s rapidly changing political, social and cultural climate during the early- to mid-20th century. It also offers a peek into how Mexico’s modern art scene influenced art in the U.S. and beyond.
The museum set up the exhibit in an easy-to-navigate format, laid out chronologically in five different sections throughout the Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries.
250 Works by 70 Artists
Visitors to the exhibit are greeted by the first section, “Modernism and Mexicanidad,” which finds Mexico in the throes of revolution. As a symbol of pride, leading Mexican artists at the time incorporated homeland accoutrements in their modernist-inspired works. For example, Diego Rivera’s cubist painting, “Portrait of Martín Luis Guzmán,” which depicts the famed writer draped in Mexican garb and surrounded by traditional furniture.
The popularity of public art and Mexican muralism appears in the second section, “Paint the Revolution,” where guests learn how Mexican government utilized the art form as a way to lift up a population worn down by war. Look out for digital representations of some of this decade’s most important murals, like Rivera’s two-part series “The Ballad of the Agricultural Revolution” and “The Ballad of the Proletarian Revolution.”
Historical and folk interpretations went out of fashion for in the early 1920s, when a new breed of Mexican artists championed an ultra-modernist movement. This plays out in the third section, “In the City,” with works depicting urban life in all its glory. Here you’ll find painted street scenes and various representations of the working class, like Tina Modotti’s striking photograph “Woman of Tehuantepec,” which is actually part of PMA’s permanent collection.
Those looking for Frida Kahlo should report to “Paint in the USA,” which illustrates a time when Mexican artists emigrated to the U.S. to work in cities like New York and San Francisco. Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait on the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States” is on full display.
The exhibition wraps up with “In Times of War,” which spans the decades that saw World War II and the Spanish Civil War. Turbulent times saw the reintroduction of aggressive populist and political art in Mexico. The most prominent piece in this section is undoubtedly the digital representation of “Portrait of the Bourgeoisie,” which portrays capitalism as a machine minting coins from the blood of Mexico’s laboring class.
Programs and Events
A host of planned events complement Paint the Revolution in the coming months.
For those looking for Halloween fun, Art After 5 on October 26 celebrates Día de los Muertos, featuring the sounds of contemporary Mexican folk band Jarana Beat. Another holiday-themed Art After 5, entitled Feliz Navidad, arrives December 9 with seasonal tunes by Mexican guitarist Paco Renteria.
There are also several Talks & Tours planned throughout the exhibit’s run, like a discussion between Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Jane Golden and José Parlá about his work as a muralist in New York City.
For the full list of events, go here.
Access to the special exhibition is free with the purchase of a general admission ticket to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. General admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $14 for students and youth ages 13 through 18 and free for members and children 12 and under.
For a deal on admission, take advantage of some of the Art Museum’s pay-what-you-wish ticket days, happening every First Sunday of the month and every Wednesday evening from 5 to 8:45 p.m. Wednesday are a particularly great night to go, when the crowds thin out for optimal art-peeping.
Whenever you go, don’t miss this landmark exhibition: Philadelphia marks the only stop in the United States before it travels on to Mexico City in 2017.