Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art: Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano

Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art: Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano

Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art: Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano

Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art: Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano

Excerpt

L'art mexicain se rapproche de plus en plus de nous au point de determiner dans nos recherches des courants essentiels.

Elie Faure

For the first time in the history of art exhibitions there has now been brought together in one building an authoritative and systematic collection of Mexican art, from the archaic cultures to the most recent schools of painting. The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first, pre-Spanish art, has been assembled by Dr. Alfonso Caso, internationallyknown authority on Mexican archaeology and Director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. The second, art of the colonial period, has been entrusted to Prof. Manuel Toussaint, Director of the Institute of Esthetic Research of the National University, a man of unsurpassed knowledge in the field. The third section is devoted to folk art, and has been organized by the distinguished painter, Roberto Montenegro, former director of the first museum of popular art founded in Mexico (1934). The fourth section, modern art, has been arranged by Miguel Covarrubias, famous caricaturist and painter, who has understood so well the restlessness of our time.

The Place of Mexico in Art History. Until recently, it would not have been possible to understand the whole course of Mexican art, from the Olmec figurines to the creations of Orozco. Pre-Spanish art seemed alien to the esthetic traditions dominant in Europe until the end of the nineteenth century. Mexican colonial art employs certain original elements that were appreciated only after the recent revaluation of baroque. The reason that our contemporary art takes its place so naturally in the progressive movements which are broadening the scope of modern paintinq is perhaps because it has contributed to the shaping of those movements. Trends of taste in recent years have been concerned with qualities that go beyond that curiosity about the visible world which has been one of the preoccupations of European art. In the plastic arts, Europe is now considered to be only one of the provinces of the world. China and Egypt have become other such provinces, and when Prof. Frobenius discovered the wonderful heads of the Sudan, East Africa, too, entered the geography of art.

The ancient civilizations of America had been the subjects of important archaeological research in the early twentieth century, and soon began to arouse esthetic interest as well. They were given their place in the handbooks and histories of art, and their importance was recognized by The Museum of Modern Art in New York in its exhibition of "Aztec, Incan, and Mayan Art" in 1933. The Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City organized an exhibit of ancient Mexican sculpture in 1934. Mexican baroque has recently provided a new chapter in the history of architecture and sculpture. The great mural painting of today has attracted worldwide attention, and thus Mexico has become established as another of the major artistic provinces of the world.

Pre-Spanish Sculpture. Pre-Spanish history is riddled with lacunae. All that can be stated with certainty is that, quite independent of any European or Oriental influence, peoples speaking different languages and at various stages of cultural development gradually created a civilization in Mexico which, by the tenth century, already knew the use . . .

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