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From the Mayans to the Moderns: Mexican Art and History in North Texas

by Jerome Weeks 27 Aug 2010 6:55 AM

A centennial and a bicentennial the same year: Mexico has something to celebrate these days. And North Texas museums, galleries and concert halls are pitching in, with a wave of openings timed around Sept. 16, Mexico’s Independence Day.


Video on Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, produced by the Peabody Essex Museum. The exhibition opens at the Kimbell Aug. 26.

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This year, Mexico is celebrating both a centennial and a bicentennial. The push for Mexican independence began in 1810 — sparked by the famous El Grito, the cry of Father Hidalgo calling Mexicans to fight for freedom from Spain — while the Mexican Revolution began in 1910. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports that North Texas museums and galleries are marking these with a wave of exhibitions and shows.

North Texans soon will be seeing a wide range of Mexican art and history  – extending from stone carvings from 700 B.C to contemporary video.

Saturday, the Kimbell Art Museum opens Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, a major show on the art of the Maya, the ancient civilization that flourished in Mexico and Central America before the Spanish arrived.  But September 16th is Mexican Independence Day, so the openings will peak next month. With Porfiriato to Revolution, for example, the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University is putting on display historic Mexican photographs and documents from 1876 to 1920. The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, meanwhile, will devote all three of its gallery spaces to an installation and a new video by Dallas producer Quin Mathews — on the connections between religious art and current politics in Mexico.

From The Forgotten Ones/Los Olvidados at the MAC

Clearly, the exhibitions are ways for culture groups to connect with the local Mexican-American community. But being able to see large pieces of  Mexican art and history like this – from the Mayans through the Moderns – it’s possible to see long, historic links across centuries and sudden artistic transformations.

Currently, the Dallas Museum of Art is showcasing some of its Mexican collection, with two shows. One is on mid-20th century Mexican artists‘ works on paper. The other is on the prints of Jose Guadalupe Posada. Posada is called the father of modern Mexican art; his work inspired such figures as the muralist Diego Rivera.

Dallas Museum of Art curator Olivier Meslay says the Revolution in 1910 was something of a hinge in Mexican culture. Artists like Posada began looking backwards and forwards to create a cultural identity separate from Spain.

Meslay: “The Revolution had a big impact on art. Under the European art surface, there was a strong, indigenous art related to the far past. And Posada said we do not need to take our identity from Europe. We could bring our own indigenous art.”

What follows is a partial list of exhibitions and shows commemorating the Mexican centennial and bicentennial. Museum exhibitions often include free side activities, so check their calendars. The Kimbell, for instance, will have a free Celebracion de Los Mayas Oct. 10 that features films,  Ballet Folklorico de Fort Worth and music from Coro Yidzat il Kay, a group of Maya-descended singers:

Black Current: Mexican Responses to Japanese Art, 17th-19th Centuries, Crow Collection of Asian Art, Oct. 21-Jan. 2.

Celebrate El Grito!, benefit performance marking Mexican independence and Teatro Dallas’ 25 years, Latino Cultural Center, Sept. 16.

Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, Kimbell Art Museum, Aug. 29-Jan. 2

The Forgotten Ones/Los Olvidados and Los Colores del Cielo, two exhibitions — one an installation, the other a video — at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Sept. 18-Oct. 23.

Latino Cultural Center, a Target day of free family activities including dance classes, a play by Teatro Dallas, ballet folklorico performances and art exhibitions, Sept. 11.

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, Winspear Opera House, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Sept. 7.

Mexico: Porfiriato to Revolution, 1876-1920, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Sept. 7-Dec. 17 (book cover, above, by Jose Guadalupe Posada).

Mexico 200Tierra y Gente: Modern Mexican Works on Paper and Jose Guadalupe Posada: The Birth of Mexican Modernism, Dallas Museum of Art, June 18 – Jan. 9.