Celebrating New World Modernism Hirshorn Museum Exhibition of Four Hispanic Masters Traces Their Impact on 20th-Century Art

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THE great Diego Rivera led a quartet of Latin American painters who melded the European avant-garde with their own culture to create innovative forms in New World modernism.

They are celebrated in a bold new show at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, "Crosscurrents of Modernism: Four Latin American Pioneers." It traces the major impact Rivera, Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Wilfredo Lam, and Matta have had on modern art.

Hirshhorn curator Valerie Fletcher, who organized the exhibition, says, "We've selected four artists whose work I felt presented the first generation of artists to overtly address the question of how do we take the radical avant-garde, new aesthetics that were emerging from Europe ... in the first half of the century, and how do we make {this} relevant to our own cultures in each of our own countries....

"For example, Diego Rivera, who was a very successful Cubist, in the first rank of the Cubists in Paris, from 1912 to l917, when he gave it up, and his solution seemed to be a very nationalistic, and often highly politicized answer, creating an art that was very specifically for the people of Mexico...." He returned to Mexico to help create the "Mexican Renaissance" of large-scale public murals.

The Rivera section of the exhibition is an object lesson in how an artist evolves, including some of his early cubist work, from his abstract portrait of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, "Zapatist Landscape (The Guerilla)" to "Maternity (Angelina and Baby Diego)," to the vivid, nationalist "Dance in Tehuantepec" and his later, powerfully beautiful works "The Flower Carrier" and "Women Selling Calla Lilies." His murals, of course, are what he's most famous for.

IT is difficult to imagine four artists more different in style than the heroes of this show. Joaquin Torres-Garcia, born and raised to age 15 in Uruguay, hit his prime in Paris in the '20s, as a cofounder of the "Circle and Square" group of abstractionists motivated by pure geometry and color. …