As part of our ongoing relationship with the Los Angeles-based Artillery, today we bring you an article about artists who have been inspired by the landscape and culture of Mexico. The author, Betty Ann Brown, says, “My journey through Mexico has been a journey from consumption to critical thinking.” Mexico as Muse was originally published on April 30, 2013.
“Mexico is truly the promised land for abstract art.”
Anni & Josef Albers, 1936
“Mexico is the most surrealist country in the world.”
Andre Breton, 1938
Why Mexico? It was not only that Mexico was nearby and easily accessible to U.S.–based artists, although that was certainly true. And it was not just that Mexico had powerful ancient arts that were alien and mysterious to the Euro-American public, though that was true as well. It was also that Mexico was, in the 1920s, a significant cultural center. As historian Amy Lifson notes in “Art of Influence” from 2010, “[O]ne of the hottest venues in the art world was the Mexican Ministry of Public Education, where Diego Rivera was painting the frescoes that would revive mural painting in the West. Rivera was world-famous, considered one of the three great living artists—the other two being Picasso and Matisse. It took him seven years to paint the cycle, which consisted of 235 panels. Artists, intellectuals, students, and curiosity-seekers from all over came to see the work.” Rivera’s work employed a new stylistic language, combining the European avant-garde with Mexican indigenous traditions. The following is a short survey of artists and the years they were in Mexico, where they were inspired and transformed.