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Exhibition of Lithographs by Pablo O'Higgins at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Pablo E. O’Higgins (1904-1983), La Carreta (The Wagon), 1966, lithograph, from the permanent collection of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, purchased with funds from the Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Modern and Contemporary Art.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT.- The Utah Museum of Fine Arts presents Pablo O’Higgins: Works on Paper, an exhibition of lithographs by an artist who — though virtually unknown in his home state of Utah — is widely celebrated throughout Mexico.

Born in Salt Lake City in 1904, Paul Higgins studied under acclaimed local artists, James T. Harwood and LeConte Stewart at East High School. By the age of twenty, the gifted art student had moved to Mexico City, changed his name to Pablo Esteban O’Higgins, and secured a position as a mural assistant for the famed Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.

O’Higgins joined the Communist Party in Mexico and never spoke of his bourgeois childhood in Utah, nor of his father’s role as the sentencing judge in the controversial death of union organizer, Joe Hill, in 1915. Biographers have speculated that O’Higgins’s political views and lifelong commitment to social justice were reactions to injustices he observed during his childhood.

After assisting Rivera on several mural projects, O'Higgins made the decision to leave and create his own work. He continued to live in Mexico where he founded the anti-Fascist printmaking workshop, Taller de Grafica Popular (People’s Graphic Workshop), with artist and political activist, Leopoldo Mendez, in 1937. The Taller de Grafica Popular was created to promote the graphic arts, enabling the widespread distribution of politically inspired images to often-illiterate audiences.

O’Higgins became an official citizen of Mexico in 1961. The only non-native Mexican whose work was included in the New York MoMA’s 1940 exhibition, Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, his work was exhibited to wide acclaim in Mexico, the United States, and Europe throughout the remainder of his life. O’Higgins died in Mexico City in 1983, and El Palacio de Bellas Artes held a funeral in his honor.

Pablo O’Higgins: Works on Paper offers a focused look at O’Higgins’s sustained commitment to Mexico’s working class and their struggle for emancipation. The exhibition consists of twenty-six lithographs from local private collections, all of which feature heroic depictions of Mexican laborers.

Organized by Donna Poulton, Associate Curator of Utah and Western Art, Pablo O’Higgins: Works on Paper is the first of four exhibitions at the UMFA that will celebrate the art and culture of Mexico in 2010.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts | Pablo O'Higgins | Donna Poulton |

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