Starting with the Mexican Revolution in 1910, Mexico started gradually changing in the political, economic and cultural sense. The artists as cultural agents were influenced by the dominating Modernist tendencies in Europe especially in the context of representation. From the end of the revolution in the 1920s practically until the 1950s, Modernism was a vehicle for expressing different non-Western patterns of depicting women in a renewed and respectable manner. Not only did men depict them differently, but they also developed authentic models of self-representation.
To revisit the fruitful years of the 20th-century Mexican modern art, The Dallas Museum of Art decided to organize an exciting exhibition titled Flores Mexicanas: Women in Modern Mexican Art starting from the pioneering practice of Alfredo Ramos Martínez after whose large-scale painting the exhibition bears title.
The current presentation is the first project launched by the DMA’s Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art, Dr. Mark A. Castro, who was appointed to this position in 2019 in light of the museum’s initiative to research, preserve, acquire and present Latin American art. Castro briefly described his curatorial approach inspired by the mentioned painting:
This has been an amazing project for kicking off my time at the Dallas Museum of Art. Alfredo Ramos Martínez was among the most versatile artists of his day and Flores Mexicanas is one of his crowning achievements. He worked on the painting for nearly fifteen years, beginning it during the Mexican Civil War. In many ways feels like an ode to a period in his life, and in the history of his country, that was ending.
The installment consists of two galleries - the first one focused on the work of Ramos Martínez, and the second one featuring more than twenty-five paintings, works on paper, and textiles by other established Mexican artists active during the first half of the 20th century.
Namely, Alfredo Ramos Martínez was an internationally acclaimed artist whose practice significantly changed after he moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles in 1929. Therefore, this gallery features the romantic portraits of society debutants and highly stylized scenes of rural life that the artist produced before moving to California.
Interestingly so, the painting Flores Mexicanas was given to the famed aviators Anne and Charles Lindbergh as a wedding gift in 1929 by the Mexican president, Emilio Portes Gil. The couple later entrusted this exceptional representation of Mexican racial diversity to the Missouri Historical Society. For more than eighty years this work remained unseen in the storage, until it was recently rediscovered and conserved.
The second gallery features the works by artists such as María Izquierdo, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Francisco Dosamantes, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. These modern portraits and self-portraits of women were a result of an increasing articulation of social and political aspects of gender identity in Mexican post-revolutionary art.
The exhibition is a significant contribution to a much-required reconsideration of the Western art historical canon and the models of representation conditioned by class, race, and gender.
Flores Mexicanas: Women in Modern Mexican Art at the Dallas Museum of Art is on view until 10 January 2021. It is also available as a virtual exhibition on the museum’s web page until further notice.
Featured image: Alfredo Ramos Martínez - Flores Mexicanas, 1914-29. Oil on canvas. Missouri Historical Society Collections. © The Alfredo Ramos Martínez Research Project, reproduced by permission. Images courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art