Americas Society Art Gallery
A TRAVELING EXHIBITION ORGANIZED BY THE VISUAL ARTS DEPARTMENT, 1997-1998
- Additional Information -
The vibrant paintings of the Mexican artist María Izquierdo (1902-1955), a key figure in the history of twentieth-century Latin American art, will be the subject of a retrospective exhibition presented at the Americas Society Art Gallery. The exhibition will be open to the public free of charge Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m. Best known for her engaging portraits and sensuous still lifes, Izquierdo created a remarkable body of work that is deeply personal and profoundly affecting, but she has often been overlooked amid the more strident voices of the muralists who were her contemporaries. This exhibition--the first comprehensive presentation of her oeuvre to be presented in New York--will help confirm her place in the history of Mexican art of this century.
Born in 1902 in the provincial town of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, Izquierdo arrived in Mexico City in the 1920s and was instantly captivated by the bohemian and artistic circles of the metropolis. She enrolled briefly in the National Fine Arts School, where her student work was praised by the great muralist Diego Rivera. Another early admirer was the young modernist painter Rufino Tamayo, with whom she was to share a studio and become romantically involved. Izquierdo's first works reveal Tamayo's influence, but she soon developed a uniquely expressive idiom. She came into her own in the 1930s with watercolors of circuses that are simultaneously joyful and melancholy. She also painted scenes of mankind pitted against natural forces beyond human control. These strange allegories attracted the attention of the French poet Antonin Artaud when he visited Mexico in 1936, and his support encouraged Izquierdo to elaborate further upon Surrealist concerns.
While European modernism was important to Izquierdo, Mexico's traditional culture, popular arts, and rural landscape provided her with a lifelong source of subjects. In many of her commanding self-portraits, for instance, she portrayed herself dressed in regional costume. Her numerous paintings of still lifes and altars lovingly depict the foods and hand-crafted objects used in popular ritual and devotion. In her late life, Izquierdo produced a number of hauntingly surreal compositions that show vibrant tableaux of typically Mexican fruits and foods before barren, somber-hued landscapes with unusually deep perspectives. These may be seen as expressions of the artist's vision of life's dual nature, comprising both joy and sorrow, hope and pessimism. Izquierdo's life was shaped by the challenges that women artists faced in Mexico, particularly in the decades when muralism and social realism held sway. She shared many of the muralists' concerns, such as an interest in portraying aspects of Mexico's history and popular culture in a visual language that was distinctly Mexican, but Izquierdo rejected social realism and the use of art as a tool for propaganda. Instead, she followed an idiosyncratic artistic path of her own devising, merging her interest in the European avant-garde with her personal subject matter according to the contingencies of the local artistic milieu.
The exhibtition will bring together some sixty outstanding paintings and works on paper by the artist. The exhibition will be organized thematically, focusing on the development of her pictorial vocabulary as she portrayed the circus, the Mexican landscape, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits. Works will be drawn from important private and public collections in Mexico and the United States.
While Izquierdo was the first Mexican artist to have a one-woman exhibition in the United States--in New York in 1930--she is today little known outside of her native land. This exhibition will mark an important milestone in the course of increased United States interest in the art and culture of Mexico.
A fully illustrated, bilingual catalogue will accompany the exhibition and will feature three essays on the artist's life and work. Curator Elizabeth Ferrer, Director of the Austin Museum of Art, will present an overview of Izquierdo's oeuvre, focusing on the works in the exhibition and their reflection of the dual influences of Europe and Mexico. The second essay will be written by the distinguished art historian Olivier Debroise, author of the seminal history of modern Mexican art, 1920-40, (1984). Debroise will analyze the artistic relationship between Izquierdo and Rufino Tamayo, her mentor and companion. The third essay, by the renowned Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, author of Tin'sima (1992), a biography of Tina Modotti, and many other works, will explore Izquierdo's life and her position as a woman in the Mexican art world. The catalogue will include a chronology of Izquierdo's life, and a bibliography, and will be the first publication devoted to the artist to be published outside of Mexico. The catalogue price is $30.
The exhibition will be on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from September 27 through December 28, 1997 and at the Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi from January 13 through March 8, 1998.
Exhibition curator Elizabeth Ferrer will present a slide lecture on the artist on Thursday, May 22 at 6:00 p.m.; to reserve seats for this event, please call (212) 249-8950, ext. 357.
The True Poetry: The exhibtion is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by Mr. Enrique Madero Bracho, the Mexican Cultural Institute, Mr. David Rockefeller, and Mr. Lorenzo Zambrano.
Photographs available. For additional information please contact: Gina Smith