Mexique 1900-1950 at Grand Palais
The exhibition Mexique 1900 – 1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Orozco and the avant-garde, fills two floors of the galeries nationales in Grand Palais. Viewers that are somehow acquainted with this period in Mexican art would probably expect to see an assemblage of mural paintings as two of the Los tres grandes, Rivera and Orozco, headline the exhibition.
Sorry, it is not really about so much about murals although Rivera’s master work Rio Juchitan is an impressive fresco that points to the essence of Mexican mural painting – as a celebration of Mexico’s history and way of life in vivid colors, as a post-revolutionary and political expression. Orozco’s mural La fiesta de los instrumentos and works by the third of The Three Great, David Alfaro Siqueiros, are also on show, but the biggest attraction are Frida Kahlo’s paintings. Her iconic and monumental painting The Two Fridas is easy to find as visitors flock around it in the section that the curators have dedicated to “Strong Women” in their roles as artists and muses, on the second floor of the exhibition. Rosa Rolanda’s vibrant self-portrait from 1952 shows the multidisciplinary artist in full frontal movement, surrounded by dancing figures while being embraced by a laughing skeleton with colors echoing the Mexican flag as a tribute to life, death, and the path between the beginning and the end. It incorporates the Mexican tradition of celebrating death with its imagery of skulls and dancing skeletons, next to elements that gives life, as earth, plants and a fiery sun share the space of the canvas with surrealistic objects and bodies.
Frida Kahlo, Sun and Life, 1947
In the same section, the piercing eyes of Nahui Olin in Gerard Murillo’s representation mesmerizes the viewer, but Kahlo reigns even with small format paintings that reveal of the artist’s view of the world with a personal and patriotic insinuative – a perspective that labelled her a surrealist.
A call for gender as a theme is understandable when The Three Great are men, but the strategy of separating women artists and muses as a theme leaves a dusty taste. Grand Palais makes a big effort to, apart from presenting a chronology of Mexican art of painting, sculpture, and photography, cover the themes as Franco-Mexican and American-Mexican relations in the art world, art of the revolution and pre-, post-revolutionary art, gender, and stylistic bends of the avant-garde (cubism, expressionism, folklore, surrealism).
Ángel Zárraga, La Femme et le Pantin, 1905
However, some of the most memorable pieces are found in the first spaces of the exhibition- as the visitor instantly comes across Ángel Zárraga’s La Femme et le Pantin that marks the start of the century 1900 with its symbolism and unique take on French academic painting. Cubistic works follow, before turning a corner and finding rest in front of Rivera’s poetic and soothing (and equally political) The Flower Seller; a girl in braids seated on the ground with her back turned to the viewer, holding her arms around a huge bundle of calla lilies – a great calm emanates from the Mexican soil.
Diego Rivera, Flower Seller, 1942
The walls with photographs by, for example, Tina Modotti and Lola Alvarez Bravo, give the visitor a chance to rest between the intense imagery and powerful groups pf sculptures, not least Francisco Zúñiga’s Group of Women in bronze that serves as a divider between the first and the second part of the exhibition, where revolutionary themes are left aside to give way to other dimensions of Mexican art. With more than 200 works on display, the exhibition gives the visitor a unique chance to come closer to strong artistic expressions within the Mexican culture.
Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco et les avant-gardes
at Grand Palais
5th October 2016 to 23 January 2017