The struggle to define what it means to be Mexican in an era of rapid change and instability profoundly affected Mexican art in the twentieth century. This period was marked by international and domestic pressure to modernize that deepened economic disparity and fueled the 30 year long Mexican Revolution. To many, modernization opposed Mexican culture by devaluing ritual practice, rural life, and indigenous cultures while privileging American economic interests over the well being of Mexican people. Others deemed stereotypical markers of Mexican culture restrictive, viewing modernization as an opportunity to reimagine Mexican identity. These conflicting narratives infused imagery in the public sphere, as artists increasingly favored cheap, publically accessible mediums like printmaking, photography, and murals. These populist forms enabled artists to become focal participants in informing the public, influencing ideologies, and initiating social change. However, in vying for visual and cultural influence, Mexican art in the 20th century raises more general questions about who is allowed, capable, or forced to create culture. In other words, who has the right (or perhaps the obligation) to speak for Mexico?
Drawn from the Bell Gallery collection, the exhibition includes prints and photographs by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Graciela Iturbide, Salvador Lutteroth, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Leopoldo Méndez, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, Mariana Yampolsky, and Francisco Zúñiga.