Printmaking and the Radical Left in Mexico
Notes from a phone conversation between Caitlin Perkins and James Wechsler, PhD.
I had the opportunity to speak with James M. Wechsler, PhD. and Independent Art Historian and Curator. Dr. Wechsler will be giving a lecture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art called Propaganda Grafica: Printmaking and the Radical Left in Mexico on Sunday, January 7th (information below). The lecture coincides with the exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art called Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920 to 1950, curated by John Ittmann, Curator of Prints, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Lyle Williams, Curator of Prints and Drawings, the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum.
Dr. Wechsler contributed to the exhibition catalog and he explained that the essay that he was able to write is the first one in English that addresses the history of this important printmaking revival and the evolution of the organization, Taller de Grafica Popular founded in 1937 in Mexico City where artists like Siqueiros worked.
While most art history survey classes might cover the Mexican mural traditions, the prints in this exhibition are virtually unknown. The exhibition and the catalog pull from the major ideas of post revolutionary Mexico.
Like Philadelphia, Mexico City has a rich printmaking mythology. TGP or Taller de Grafica Popular, where thousands of editions have been published, was originally located (it has since moved) in a neighborhood of the directly ontop of the unexcavated ruins of the Templo Mayor complex and the first printing press in the Americas, a Spanish printing press built during the colonial times!
Dr. Wechsler will outline the printmaking revival sparked during the open air studios which inspired the well known mural traditions of Mexico. In post colonial Mexico, the government sponsored murals, controlled by Jose Vasconcelos, Minister of Education, focused on the themes of national unity and identity. While the artists are certainly well known for their murals, these official art themes didn't necessarily tell the whole picture, and the print mediums allowed the artists more freedom and could be distributed to a wider audience.
For example, Dr. Wechsler explained to me that after the revolution, many of the artists like Riviera, Orozco and Siqueiros worked on a newspaper called El Machete, which had articles, political writings and illustrations. The printed artwork was more radical than what was allowed in the murals-those in power were content with the partial revolution, and they did everything they could to prevent a full communist revolution.
Printmaking, Dr. Wechsler explained, was the vital movement of Mexican expression in the late 1930s, created in a social setting through team efforts. In fact, the artists in the TGP workshop would meet every Friday night for group critiques. Much of the work was ideologically and politically similar created between 1937 until around 1941. I found there to be many similarities in his descriptions to contemporary urban artists working in print mediums, like the fact many of the TGP artists created prints to be wheat pasted up around the city on newsprint, but would often print the same images on fine art papers for the collectors market.
There is often that interesting mix in the print tradition of the collectors market and those using print for political message, I was intrigued to find out that artists such as Orozco, Siqueros didn't start making prints until the director of the Wehye Gallery in New York asked them to create prints based on their murals, and were not necessarily a revolutionary tool.
Dr. Wechsler will trace the history of Mexican artists as they break the colonial traditions creating a new socialistic aesthetic, and the difficulties they encounter during governmental regime change, war and the disintegration of their endeavors during the Cold War.
As he pointed out to me, while the Mexican mural tradition is taught in art history classes, the printmaking workshops he will discuss are virtually unknown, and it is rare to see these prints. This is the most extensive exhibition in years, and the text is the most inclusive in years.
This conversation was by phone on December 22, 2006 with Caitlin Perkins and James Wechsler.
Sunday, January 7th 1:30 pm at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Propaganda Grafica: Printmaking and the Radical Left in Mexico
This lecture will be followed by a conversation with Dr. Guadalupe Rivera Marin, founder of the Diego Rivera Foundation and daughter of the famous Mexican muralist.
Tickets are required, and are free with museum admission, which is the Sunday museum entrance fee of "pay what you wish.". For more information, please call the ticket office 215-684-7469 (there will be a $3 handling fee to reserve in advance, but the tickets are going fast - so to guarantee your seats, get them in advance)
New York Times Review of exhibition
Friday, December 22, 2006
Printmaking and the Radical Left in Mexico
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Art wall paper or A-WAL is "adorning the vernacular one email at a time". This web tool allows users to upload their own photos and images to be displayed as background wallpaper. The company is also featuring specially curated artworks to serve as image backgrounds for users. Adorning the artworld. Note - they do charge for this service - but an interesting idea as a means of creating virtual printed surface...
Saw this on an e-flux announcement this morning. The press release explained that for this installment, they are featuring independent writer, lecturer, and curator Dr Kathy Battista, who is based in London. Kathyâs abiding interest in and support for experimental art forms and innovative practice has been displayed through her past involvement and work with esteemed organizations such as Artangel, Tate Modern, and the Serpentine Gallery. Kathy has regularly contributed to Contemporary, Frieze, Third Text, and Art Monthly amongst other publications, is an editor of Art & Architecture Journal.
The artists featured in this exhibition include:
Daniel Jackson, Delaney Martin, Jamie Robinson, Sans Facon (Tristan Surtees & Charles Blanc), Dallas Seitz, Krisdy Schindler and Heather Sparks.