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Baltimore Museum of Art presents exhibition of Mexican Modernist prints & drawings
Diego Rivera. Zapata. 1932. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Blanche Adler. BMA 1932.28.5. © 2017 Diego Rivera/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SOMAAP, Mexico.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art explores an unprecedented period of cultural and intellectual exchange between Mexico and the U.S. in Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints, on view through March 11, 2018. The exhibition features 30 prints and drawings created in the 1930s and 1940s by artists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Elizabeth Catlett. Crossing Borders is also the first exhibition to highlight the BMA’s outstanding holdings of works by Mexican modernist artists.

“In Crossing Borders, one sees how the bold and expressive figurative imagery of these prints underscores the political, social, and cultural shifts taking place in the years following the Mexican Revolution,” said Rena Hoisington, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs. “In the 1930s and 1940s, printmaking played a major role in publicizing and forging a distinctly modern Mexican identity.”

Among the works in Crossing Borders that address social issues is Zapata (1932), Rivera’s lithograph of Mexican Revolution hero and agrarian leader Emiliano Zapata. One of the earliest Mexican modernist prints to enter the BMA’s collection, it shows Zapata and his horse standing over the dead body of a wealthy landowner as farmers crowd in behind them. Other examples include Orozco’s The Lynching (1934), a wrenching condemnation of racial violence from the portfolio The American Scene, No. 1 that depicts mutilated bodies hanging from trees and burning in flames. Imperialist Industrialization (1945), a linoleum cut by Leopoldo Méndez points to the complexities of Mexico’s shift from an overwhelmingly agricultural economy to an industrial one at the expense of the poor. Méndez was one of the founders of the influential Taller de Gráfica Popular (People’s Graphic Art Workshop). Declaring its commitment to “the progressive and democratic interests of the Mexican people,” this printmaking collective and artist community opened its doors to all regardless of their race or social standing, including visitors from abroad.

Three works by Taller de Gráfica Popular artist Elizabeth Catlett include My right is a future of equality with other Americans (1946-47), the final print from the artist’s series, The Negro Woman. This epic narrative tells of the struggles, oppressions, and achievements of African American women. Reclining Nude (1931) by Siqueiros is a recently acquired transfer lithograph of his companion Uruguayan poet Blanca Luz Brum that was created while the artist was living in exile in the remote mining town of Taxco. Its intermingling, three-dimensional forms seem to oscillate between stone sculpture and human flesh.

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints is curated by Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Rena Hoisington

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