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Las Artes de México on View at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Jaguar Head, Maya, AD 300 to 900, earthenware, courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT.- The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) presents Las Artes de México, an exhibition celebrating more than 3,500 years of Mexican art, history, and culture. On loan from the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this exhibition will be on view in six of the UMFA’s first-floor galleries during the summer of 2010.

Las Artes de México offers a dynamic look at Mexico’s ancient, folk, and modern cultures, showcasing art from many different eras and regions. From ancient Mesoamerican artifacts to groundbreaking twentieth century artworks by modern masters, Las Artes de México examines the rich historical roots that have developed into the country’s cultural landscape today.

In an effort to provide a meaningful, enjoyable, and educational experience for all visitors, the UMFA has created label text and educational materials in both English and Spanish. A variety of special public programs, family activities, and community collaborations have been scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition.

While the nation of Mexico was formally established in 1821, Mexican culture remains a mosaic of traditions that stretch back to antiquity. In the first two Las Artes de México galleries, visitors will encounter an array of alluring objects, including gold jewelry, ceramic vessels, jade carvings, and intricately crafted instruments. More than one dozen Precolumbian cultures are represented, including the Olmec (2500 BCE–300 CE); the Teotihuacan and Mayas (300–900 CE); and the Toltec and Aztec empires (900–1521 CE).

Religion was an important part of everyday life in Mesoamerica. From mass human sacrifices to simple votive offerings, the people of ancient Mexico worshipped deities to ensure well-being in life and afterlife. Religious themes are foregrounded in the third Las Artes de México gallery, which explores the power of the jaguar, the importance of divine effigies, and the significance of the sometimes deadly Olmec ballgame.

In subsequent galleries, visitors will discover that indigenous practices underwent a dramatic transformation in the sixteenth century. After the Aztecs were defeated in the Spanish invasion (1519--1521), Roman Catholicism became the official religion of the area. Detailed yarn paintings, colonial bultos, and religious retablos illustrate the resultant merging of native mythology with Catholic ideology. This fusion of Indian and Spanish cultures created a range of vibrant traditions that determined much of Mexico’s current cultural identity. The fifth Las Artes de México gallery presents twentieth century masks, weavings, and clothing, all of which are deeply rooted in ancient Mexican tradition and ways of life.

In the early twentieth century, around the time of the Mexican Revolution, government leaders worked with artists to establish cultural reforms aimed at empowering the Mexican people. A new generation of artists created public artworks, including murals and prints, that celebrated native traditions, Mexican folklore, and the dignity of working people.

The final Las Artes de México gallery includes more than 25 paintings and works on paper by modernist artists such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Rufino Tamayo, as well as Taller de Grafica Popular (People’s Print Workshop) founders Leopoldo Mendez, Raul Anguiano, and Alfredo Zalce. These influential artists were driven by a desire for social emancipation, economic change, and cultural revival.

Las Artes de México examines over three millennia of tradition and change across the broad spectrum of Mexican art and culture. The exhibition is on view at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts as the final venue in a three-year national tour developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, a company based in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts | "Las Artes de México" | Smith Kramer Fine Art Services |

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