The Mexican Modernists Who Found Success in Decadence
An exhibition at Paris’s Grand Palais tracks art made in Mexico during the first half of the 20th century, focusing on the influence of the European avant-garde and Mexicans’ celebratory attitude toward death.
PARIS — In Mexique 1900–1950, the Mexican avant-garde art of the first half of the 20th century offers a disorientating paradox. Many of the 200 works in the show were derived from the Parisian avant-garde and are as exciting as a reggae version of “Hey Jude.” But sometimes the Mexican art manages to present a dark, gnarly, and fierce mysticism that challenges and extends French secular tastes in aesthetic experimentation.
Mexican artists and other artists under the influence of Mexican history often took up the grand theme of life by celebrating and mocking death. For the French poet and leader of the Surrealist movement André Breton, this mind-boggling, death-defying attitude was almost the purest incarnation of Surrealist theory. The Surrealist-affiliated Antonin Artaud famously lived there with the Rarámuri people in the mid 1930s, when he experimented with peyote (his notes about these experiences were later released in a volume titled The Peyote Dance). Inspired by his and Breton’s Mexican painter friend Federico Cantú Garza (excluded from this show), Artaud sought to find in Mexico a spirit of magical, nondualist vision and psyche.
Joseph Nechvatal is an artist whose computer-robotic assisted paintings and computer software animations are shown regularly in galleries and museums throughout the world. In 2011 his book Immersion Into Noise was published by the University of Michigan Library's Scholarly Publishing Office in conjunction with the Open Humanities Press. He exhibited in Noise, a show based on his book, as part of the Venice Biennale 55, and is artistic director of the Minóy Punctum Book/CD.the-mexican-modernists