Mexico: multiple modernities

CHAPTER 3: The graphic art renaissance

Mexico had a strong printmaking tradition which enjoyed a renaissance during the post-revolutionary period. Woodcuts, linocuts, and lithographs provided an affordable platform to experiment with avant-garde forms, disseminate political ideas at home and abroad, and work in cooperative ways. Several influential printmaking groups emerged in Mexico in the 1930s and 1940s, including ¡30-30! and the Taller de Gráfica Popular [People’s Graphic Workshop]. Mexican artists inspired the development of graphic art elsewhere, including in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the United States––in the context of the Chicano movement.

This art object can not be displayed
Mujer grávida [Pregnant Woman], also known as Soldadera [Soldier's Wife]

José Clemente Orozco
Ciudad Guzmán, Mexico, 1883 - 1949, Mexico City

Mujer grávida [Pregnant Woman], also known as Soldadera [Soldier's Wife]
56.8 cm x 40 cm (22 3/8 in. x 15 3/4 in.)
Gift of the children of L.M. Tonkin, 1966

During his stay in the United States in the late 1920s, José Clemente Orozco used the medium of lithography to reproduce images from his frescoes in Mexico City. The prints served to familiarize the American audience with his work while also providing a stream of income. This somber image is based on a detail from one of Orozco’s frescos at the Colegio de San Ildelfonso in Mexico City. The gentle undulations of the draped shawl coupled with the graceful fluidity of her arms, work to create a pensive serenity for the subject, a pregnant wife of one of the soldiers of the Mexican Revolution.

Hombre con maguey [Man with Maguey]

Rufino Tamayo
Oaxaca, Mexico, 1899 - 1991, Mexico City

Hombre con maguey [Man with Maguey]
26.1 cm x 19.3 cm (10 1/4 in. x 7 5/8 in.)
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1986

Known for his modernist paintings, Rufino Tamayo was also one of Mexico’s most prolific printmakers. In 1921, the artist worked in the Department of Ethnographic Drawings at the National Museum of Archaeology with José Vasconcelos, Mexico’s then secretary of education. At the time, Vasconcelos advocated a re-envisioning of Mexico’s national identity through a blending of contemporary indigenous culture with pre- and post-Conquest cultural elements. Created in New York, this early woodcut can be seen as Tamayo’s response to Vasconcelos’s ideas. Likely drawn from the artist’s Zapotec heritage in his home state of Oaxaca, "Hombre con maguey" features an armed revolutionary peasant defending his ancestral farmlands. The agave, an important symbol for this land, was central to the agriculture of the area. Tamayo’s similar stylistic treatment of both the figure and the landscape suggests their underlying connectedness.

This art object can not be displayed

Image credit:
José Chávez Morado
La conspiración [Conspiracy], from the portfolio Vida nocturna de la ciudad de México [Mexico City’s Nightlife], 1936 (detail)
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
University purchase, 1966; Transfer from the Harry Ransom Center, 1982