The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 157
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This commendable publication is the catalogue of the Yale University Art
Gallery exhibition of U.S. artists in Mexico between 1914 and 1947. It includes
numerous photographs and illustrations with texts by Karen Cordero Reiman
and James Oles on Mexican postrevolutionary art and U.S. artists in Mexico.
Reiman focuses on the Mexican School of painting, which earned a place in
world art history with its fusion of social, political, and esthetic themes, and is
best known for its mural expression. Oles treats the formal qualities of art in bio-
graphical and political contexts.
The essays contain convolutions and omissions. Reiman too eagerly uses Eu-
rope as the center to which every Mexican art movement may be related or com-
pared. For example, she labels the vernacular style, a continuation of colonial
genre painting with a modernist overlay, "Mexicanist fauvism," and sidesteps the
venerable Mexican woodcut tradition for a South American version of futurism.
Oles dates the beginning of the Mexican School earlier than most scholars. He
says that a 1921 Leal painting was the first to depict the Mexican Revolution,
when that distinction is usually awarded to Goitia's 1916 Dance of the Revolution,
with earlier adumbrations of the theme by Herrin, Ramos Martinez, and others.
Neither Reiman nor Oles mentions Dr. Atl's prerevolutionary nationalism,
which included an aborted mural project.
The American artists in Mexico, Oles argues, fell under the sway of the Mexi-
can School. Among them were Everett Gee Jackson, Octavio Medellin, Marsden
Hartley, Henrietta Shoe, George Overbury "Pop" Hart, and photographers Ed-
ward Weston, Laura Gilpin, Helen Levitt, and Dorothea Lange, who captured
Mexican migrant workers in Texas. Abstract painter Josef Albers derived his de-
signs from pre-Hispanic architecture. The avatar was Paul Higgins, who changed
his name to Pablo O'Higgins, bought into the communist-esthetic dogma, got
the earth tones just right, and became one of the immortals of the Mexican
Foreigners were important in the Mexican cultural renaissance. Rene
d'Harnoncourt and William Spratling revived the lacquerware and silver-
smithing crafts respectively; Frances Toor stimulated folklore study; and Fred
Davis spurred arts and crafts retailing. In postrevolutionary Mexico there were
fewer social inhibitions and political restrictions than in the U.S., and American
artists could more freely pursue Popular Front discourse. O'Higgins, Marion
and Grace Greenwood, Ryah Ludins, Philip Guston, and Reuben Kadish made
impressive contributions to Mexican muralism.
Oles breaks new ground by including postcards, travel pamphlets, curios,
tableware, magazines, posters, advertisements, films, and cartoons. But he seems
glad to get to Motherwell's conceptualized doodling in Pancho Villa, Dead and
Alive, which he uses to mark the U.S. artists' departure from the Mexican
School. Few uncompromised by modernism would agree with his assessment of
the painting: "nowhere more clearly do we see the power of the artist to shape
an image of Mexico through the visual arts." He then develops a stock intellectu-
alist critique of the psychological and implicitly false motivations of U.S. creators
in Mexico, putting them-and even the Mexican School-down.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/185/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.