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Mexico: Art for the People: Exhibition of works on Paper from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art collection opens
Diego Rivera, The Docker, 1926. Brush and ink. Signed and dated in pencil lower right. Gift of Dr. Cheskel (Hans) Zwi Klצtzel, Jerusalem , mid-1930s.

By: Emanuela Caló

TEL AVIV.- In accord with the revolutionary legacy of Mexican printmaking, traditionally used as a political tool in the struggle for social justice, most of the prints in the exhibition allude to distinctive historical and ideological aspects, in the local Mexican and international contexts, and to the formation of Mexican identity. Made between the 1920s and 1950s and associated with Social Realism, they were created by artists who were members of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP, Popular Graphic Arts Workshop), Mexico City. These pieces are juxtaposed with works on paper by Mexico's three great muralists: José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Diego María Rivera, as well as with works by artist Rufino Tamayo.

The featured works portray real events and figures involved in the most formative event in their makers' lives: the Mexican Revolution which took place between 1910-1921. They depict bloody events underlain by the struggle between the poor and the working peasants, on one side, and the rich, abusive land owners, on the other. In the aftermath of the revolution, artists strove to create a national art focused on Mexican history. They created images which expressed their identification with the heroes of the revolution, reflected the wrongs inflicted upon the peasants and the political exploitation, and thereby strengthened the government's reformist acts. From the 1930s on, artists became the critics of government policies, believing that it was their duty to construct a narrative which would support the existence of an ongoing socialist revolution which had not yet been completed.

Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP, Popular Graphic Arts Workshop) was an association of print artists established to promote the artistic and political goals of its members, while catering to their need for printmaking equipment and space for work and display. Set up in Mexico City in 1937, its founders included Leopoldo Méndez and Pablo O'Higgins. TGP artists were influenced by popular and indigenous Mexican art and by a wide range of sources from European art. Many of them revered José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), considered the father of modern Mexican printmaking. TGP members created posters, pamphlets, and prints intended to rouse awareness among broad audiences in Mexico, some illiterate rural folk. They worked mostly in linocut, which made quick, inexpensive production intended for distribution among the masses possible. Their expressive and direct style was typified by strong, angular contours, dramatic lighting, sharp contrasts, as well as a narrative-realistic language, at times grotesque, satirical, and caricature-like.

TGP artists took an active part in educational and political activities. Most of them were members of the Communist party and supported the European anti-Fascist movements. Many of their works addressed the spread of Fascism and Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, the Cold War, the nuclear threat, and the dangers of capitalism. The involvement with issues of social justice outside Mexico contributed to TGP's reputation worldwide. In fact, it was one of the most important art collectives in the history of modern art acting from political motivations.

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