Pearls from artists* # 410July 8, 2020
*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Faced with the disparities between lived reality and America’s professed ideals of inclusion and equity, countless artists have begun embracing the social role of art and using aesthetic means to speak out against all manner of injustice. In such a climate, the Mexican muralists [Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros] have once again emerged as models of how to marry aesthetic rigor and vitality to socially conscious subject matter that addresses the most fundamental questions concerning our collective pursuit of a more just and equitable society. Not withstanding the rich cultural ties and decades of migration that have long existed between the United States and Mexico, the relationship between the two countries has always been fraught, marked as much by mutual wariness and bouts of hostility as by a spirit of camaraderie and cooperation Yet the ugliness and xenophobia of the recent debates on the American side echoes the worst of the past. It thus seems more imperative than ever to acknowledge the profound and enduring influence Mexican muralism has had on artmaking in the United States and to highlight the beauty and power that can emerge from the free and vibrant cultural exchange between the two countries. As much as did American artists decades ago, artists in the United States today stand to benefit from an awareness of how dynamically and inventively the Mexican muralists used their art to project the ideals of compassion, justice, and solidarity. They remain a source of powerful inspiration for their seamless synthesis of ethics, art, and action.
Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925 – 1945, edited by Barbara Haskell
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