Blanco Art Collection

Introduction by Julian Manelli, Curator

WORKERS’ VISION OF ART IN THE AMERICAS
by Julian Manelli, Curator of the Exhibit

The dramatic social changes ushered in by the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) were the roots of the “Artful Revolution.” This exhibit acknowledges the unrecognized role of the artists of the Taller de Grafica Popular (TGP) in changing the face of 20th century graphic arts.

The TGP believed that graphic art had a social and moral obligation to teach Mexicans about their history and the important ideals of the revolution. The TGP works of art are for the most part didactic, breaking new ground in the way they interpreted the world. The messages conveyed by the works were easily understood and accessible to mass audiences. The products of the TGP were posters, single prints, illustrations and series.

A national culture was in the remaking and President Lazaro Cardenas (1934-1940) had a lasting impact on this. Cardenas recognized the role of visual art and encouraged and supported workshops such as the TGP.

The TGP art presented pre-Columbian, native Indian and mestizo images and culture. These artists shed 19th century neo-classicism and captured people, society and the environment in a realistic new vision. Through the use of linocut methods, they broke new ground in design and technique—simple, unadorned lines with stark contrasts. Their shear artistic virtuosity, for example, is demonstrated in their ability to obtain depth without perspective, paying tribute to their roots but not copying pre-Columbian styles.

TGP membership was open to all applicants; the founding members were proud that the TGP was composed primarily of individual artists of working class origin. Work was collaborative and collective; artists were expected to work in the printing operation and production shop. All work was reviewed and a lively critical atmosphere allowed individual artists to grow and learn. In this charged environment experimentation and design creatively fused resulting in works that resonated visually, emotionally and intellectually.

In their art, a visual representation of Mexican pride, pride in the cultural heritage of all Mexicans, Mexicanidad (“Mexicanness”) was born—truly an American Continent-rooted modern art movement. The TGP movement produced a new native and visionary style readily recognizable that was exported internationally

TGP’s open and collaborative workshop was widely admired. It was a magnet for Mexican and non-Mexican artists alike. Many artists from other countries came to work at the TGP (some as guest artists like Elizabeth Catlett – USA- and others who decided to remain). They exported and internationalized many of the TGP techniques and philosophy. Workshops like the TGP were founded in other countries because of this interchange. In the United States print shops inspired by the TGP include the Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in Long Island , New York and Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles .

While the world today recognizes this style through the more popularly known works of “Los Tres Grandes” (the muralists Rivera, Oroszco and Siqueiros), this exhibit seeks to shed light on the equally important but not well known role of the TGP artists.

Bibliography:

A Brief History of Mexico by Lynn V. Foster.

A Concise History of Mexico by Brian R. Hamnett.

Mexico and Modern Printmaking : a Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920 to 1950 edited by John Ittmann with contributions by Innis Howe Shoemaker, James M Wechsler and Lyle W. Williams

Prints of the Mexican Masters by the Mexican Fine Arts Center , Museum of Chicago

June 2, 2008

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