Tag Archives: painting

Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico at the Skirball Center, Los Angeles

Once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart,

you will have no rest in any other land.

On September 13, I joined Patrice Wynne and Gloria Orenstein at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles for a curator-led preview tour of this landmark exhibition, Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico.

The exhibition runs through February 25, 2018.

The term promised land is rooted in a vision of freedom and liberation.  Emotionally, it has meaning for peoples seeking release from oppression who want a secure life where one can become fully realized without restraint. Jewish identity is intertwined with Israel as the promised land. African-American slaves looked to the north as a promised land. Oppressed peoples throughout the world continue to seek asylum in America, their hope of the promised land where opportunity and justice prevail. (We must be vigilant.)

Tina Modotti captures Anita Brenner in black and white

Anita Brenner (1905-1974), a Mexican-born Jewish writer who lived and worked during the Mexican Renaissance, saw the country adopted by her Latvian parents as a promised land for intellectual and artistic expression. Her own experience with prejudice and discrimination helped give her voice to bridge understanding.

Mexico was a haven for immigrants escaping Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Even today, Mexico has a welcoming immigration policy. Her people are a blend of indigenous, Spanish, African, Filipino, Chinese, German, and French — representing waves of conquest and immigration. Jews sought haven in Mexico when the gates were closed to the United States of America. (Thank you, Mexico!)

Diego Rivera, Dance in Tehuantepec, watercolor

Brenner was an integral part of the circle of Mexican modernists in the 1920s and played an important role in promoting and translating Mexican art, culture, and history for audiences in the U.S.

Jean Charlot, The Massacre in the Main Temple, fresco, Collegio San Ildefonso

Born during the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Brenner was close to the leading intellectuals and artists active in Mexico at the time. These are names we know well: painters José Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jean Charlot, and photographer Tina Modotti. There were others whose name we do not widely know in the USA, including Rivera’s second wife, Guadalupe Marin, Frances Toor, Nahui Olin, Luz Jimenez and Concha Michel.   

Abraham Angel, La India

Art historian Karen Cordero says they would meet at Sanborn’s Casa de los Azulejos to talk about politics, social injustices, women’s rights, feminism, and other issues.

The exhibition introduces us to Brenner as an important figure who has been heretofore obscured by the more illustrious in her circle.  An influential and prolific writer on Mexican culture, Brenner is best known for her book Idols Behind Altars: Modern Mexican Art and Its Cultural Roots (1929). 

Cover of Mexico this month, February 1956

Her work is rooted in the shaping of post-Revolution Mexico, when a new identity for a new nation needed to be reassessed to reflect the persistent indigenous culture behind the Spanish conquest. The Revolution brought with it the need to create political, social and cultural change and artists turned to folk art as inspiration to re-imagine past with future.

Mathias Goeritz, Satellite Tower. He was close to Luis Barragan, architect.

She was also instrumental in creating cultural tourism for Mexico — promoting cultural exploration as a vacation activity by publishing the cultural travel magazine, Mexico this month. We can consider her a pioneer in learning about the people who live where you visit.

The Skirball’s exhibition includes a narrative of Brenner’s life. It features pre-Columbian art, paintings, prints, photographs and drawings by Miguel Covarrubias, Jean Charlot, Edward Weston, Leonora Cunningham, Maximo Pacheco, Lola Cueto, Abraham Angel, plus those we are more familiar with: Kahlo, Rivera, Orozco.

Lithograph by Orozco

Charlot was a disciple of Rivera who contributed to the murals at the Secretariat de Publica Education (SEP). He was in love with Brenner; they could never reconcile religious differences and did not marry, though they remained lifelong friends.

Cultural map of Oaxaca, Mexico/this month

Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty.

Gloria Orenstein, Norma Schafer and Patrice Wynne at the exhibition

Footnote: Los Angeles County has the second largest Jewish population and the largest Latino population in the United States.

Thank you to the Skirball Cultural Center for background information and photographs.

Artist Gabo Mendoza Show Opens, Thursday, June 16 at Galeria Arte de Oaxaca

Your invitation to join Gabo Thursday, June 16, 7 p.m.

Your invitation to join Gabo this Thursday, June 16, 7 p.m.

I’ve written about Gabriel “Gabo” Mendoza before. His work might seem whimsical at first look. But it is filled with meaning, emotion, character and ripe for interpretation.

Woven handmade paper painted with a child's scream or song. You decide.

Woven handmade paper painted with a child’s scream or song. You decide.

Gabo’s subjects are street people, many representing the underbelly of Mexico: poverty, disenfranchisement, sex workers who are mothers, children who are homeless, uneducated and uncared for.

Young boys on the street with artist Gabo Mendoza

Young boys (or are they men?) on the street with artist Gabo Mendoza

Dreaming of bicycles and a way to get away

Dreaming of bicycles and a way to get away

Gabo plays with language in his paintings. Words and parts of words appear and trail off the paper or canvas, giving a sense of incompleteness, impermanence. Bici is Spanish for bicycle. Where’s the B in the painting above? Broken off or away or a shadow or dream?

The family comes together as a unit of friends, substitute for those who are absent

The family comes together as a unit of friends, substitute for those who are absent

Portrait of Gabo Mendoza in his Xicotencatl workshop taller

Portrait of Gabo Mendoza in his Xicotencatl workshop taller

Doesn't every child want a puppy to play with? or maybe it's a goat!

Doesn’t every child want a puppy to play with? or maybe it’s a goat!

And they went into the ark, two by two, one male, one female ...

And they went into the ark, two by two, one male, one female …

At the Dolores Olmedo Museum: Pablo O’Higgins Prints

The entire Frida Kahlo permanent exhibition of paintings at the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum in Mexico City is on loan to the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, until April 30.

We discovered this last Sunday as we made our afternoon visit as part of the Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Tour. Disappointed? Yes.

But, the Rivera galleries were intact and we were treated to a special exhibition of Pablo O’Higgins lithographs in the space that usually holds Frida’s work.

Pablo O’Higgins, one of Diego Rivera’s most talented disciples, participated in the making of Rivera murals in the public education building, and then painted his own at the Abelardo Rodriguez market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He is an enigma to many. He changed his name from Paul Higgins Stevenson (there is even controversy about his real original name) when he arrived in Mexico  at age 20 to obscure his upper-class family origins and identity. His father, a conservative lawyer participated in the death sentence of miner and labor organizer Joe Hill.

Writer Susan Vogel addresses the question of his identity in her book, Becoming Pablo O’Higgins: How an Anglo-American Artist from Utah Became a Mexican Muralist.

The character of O’Higgins is fascinating if not fully articulated. Here is a blonde, blue-eyed giant among the Mexican working-class, painting and drawing powerful images of average daily life.

This exhibition, combined with the one at the Museo de Mural de Diego Rivera, shows the skill and directness of O’Higgins’ work. Real. Intense. Honest. Compelling.

So, ultimately, we were not disappointed. The visit was enhanced by this special exhibition.

I’m in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, now, and will be here for the month of April, taking care of legal and health care check-ups.  (Don’t worry, all is well.)

On Friday evening, my artist friend, Hollie Taylor Novak, is opening an exhibition at the North Carolina Craft Gallery featuring her Frida Tributes. I’ll be writing more about that later.

Saludos from the state that needs to elect a new governor!

Pablo O’Higgins and Mexican Muralism: A Weekend in Mexico City

Mexico City is Number One on the New York Times recommended travel destinations. CDMX has it all, they say, and I agree. This is probably the tenth time I’ve been here in the last two years for the art history study tour I organize, Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

New Dates: June 30-July 3, 2016 AND September 1-4, 2016  send me an email  norma.schafer@icloud.com

Pablo O'Higgins self-portrait, and portrait of his wife Maria in background

Pablo O’Higgins self-portrait, and portrait of his wife Maria in background

I always stay in the Centro Historico around the Zocalo where it is safe, pedestrian friendly, filled with art and archeology treasures and amazing restaurants with innovative menus. First-time visitors say they join me on this study tour as an orientation to one of the biggest cities in the world.

O’Higgins mural at Abelardo Rodriguez Market

Important and well-known CDMX destinations are the Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional and Bellas Artes. Few dig deeper into the murals at the Secretariat de Educacion Publico (SEP) and the Mercado Abelardo Rodriguez.

Figure, Pablo O'Higgins mural, Abelardo Rodriguez Market

Figure, Pablo O’Higgins mural, Abelardo Rodriguez Market

The Rivera murals at SEP were among his first after returning from European art study for over ten years. These were painted between 1923 and 1928.  Now famous, Rivera attracted a cadre of student assistants to sketch and paint.

Detail, mural sketch, with Francisco I. Madero and Miguel Hidalgo

Detail, mural sketch, with Francisco I. Madero and Miguel Hidalgo

One of these was Pablo O’Higgins, a 20-year old Utah-born American artist who was attracted to the ideals of the Mexican Revolution and migrated to Mexico City in 1924 where he became a student of Diego Rivera.

O'Higgins painted wood cabinet fronts for the Emiliano Zapata School

O’Higgins painted wood cabinet fronts for the Emiliano Zapata School

We search out O’Higgins frescoes at the Abelardo Rodriguez market. They are well-hidden in a not-so-easy-to-access patio in a colonial building next to the market. Rivera was offered a commission to paint the murals in this then new city market built in 1934. Too busy with other work, he proposed that his students do the project and agreed to supervise it.

O’Higgins was also a printmaker and co-founder of Taller de Graphica Popular, an artists’ print collective that created sociopolitical art to renounce fascism and imperialism. Mexico has a deep relationship with the graphic arts and it’s alive and well in both Mexico City and Oaxaca, today.

There are four large O’Higgins mural panels in this area that deserve attention, which is why it is included in our art history study tour. As a disciple of Rivera, O’Higgins learned from the master’s style and then created his own. Rivera said if he ever had a son, he wanted him to be like Pablo O’Higgins.

Mural detail, Abelardo Rodriguez Market

Mural detail, An Open Press, Abelardo Rodriguez Market

Today, while visiting the Museo Mural de Diego Rivera that holds the fresco Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda, we were surprised with a special exhibition of Pablo O’Higgins’ work there, too. The second floor of the exhibition features a commentary about his work by art historians, fellow artists, and his wife Maria.

O'Higgins mural sketch

O’Higgins mural sketch

As one of Rivera’s top disciples, it’s fitting that O’Higgins is recognized with an exhibition in the Rivera mural museum. Perhaps the government will find a way to begin preserving his murals and those of the other students’ work at the market and other locations around the city.

Mural over arched doorway, Abelardo Rodriguez Market

Mural over arched doorway, Abelardo Rodriguez Market, corn and huitlacoche

Who painted at the Abelardo Rodriguez Market?

Market fresco themes were health, nutrition, quality organic food produced by labor recognized for their contributions to physical well-being, fair compensation and working conditions.

MuralsSEP+Best81-70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arte Walk Oaxaca: Graphic Arts + Painting Studios

Thursday nights are Arte Walk Oaxaca. There’s a nice little black and white map that pinpoints the independent art spaces and workshops. My favorites (plus one not listed on the map) are clustered in the neighborhood just a few blocks from the Zocalo, bounded by Hidalgo, Doblado, Xicotencatl and Colon. It’s becoming Oaxaca’s SOHO (south of Hidalgo) arts district.

David, Carol and Gabo in the textured courtyard wall glow

David, Carol and Gabo in the textured courtyard wall glow

While you can find the artists, a coterie of Oaxaca local art lovers spilling out onto the sidewalk outside postage stamp galleries, along with shots of mezcal, beers and bowls of spicy peanuts, Thursdays aren’t the only time to enjoy what Oaxaca is known for: GREAT GRAPHIC ART.

Black and white print at La Chicharra

Black and white print at La Chicharra Taller de Grafica

Most galleries are open Monday through Sunday, though often it’s catch as catch can. As is the case with many small, locally owned and/or operated shops here. Many of the galleries are cooperatives, so they are staffed by rotating volunteer artists who need a venue to show and sell their work directly. THERE IS A LOT OF TALENT HERE.

A subtle wall mural of overlapping faces, faces in the crowd?

A subtle wall mural of overlapping faces, faces in the crowd? Gabo Mendoza studio.

Last night, Friday, Gabriel Gabo Mendoza (tel: 951-142-7508) held an open studio where he lives and works at Xicotencatl #303. He isn’t on the map. Carol, David and I meandered in around 7 p.m. just as night was falling and the promise of a new moon hung in the sky.

 

Gabo’s courtyard was lit with purple twinkle lights. There were new murals on the wall. The large space will become a studio workshop for many. A table-top display held recycled Ixtlan wood mezcal boxes hand-painted with agave varieties of 750 liter bottles contained within. The mezcal is sourced locally by some of the best mezcaleros in Oaxaca and private labeled. Organic and artisanal. A great gift!

Agave painted mezcal boxes, containing artisanal juice -- for sale at Gabo Mendoza

Agave painted mezcal boxes, containing artisanal juice — for sale at Gabo Mendoza

We looked through Gabo’s newest work. Talked about how artists develop and evolve over time, and how this reflects in their work along with life experiences, tragedies and joy. It was interesting to talk about the transitions from then to now, sharing life stories, sipping Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus water) and feeling the glow of the space.

Moon coming up over purple twinkle lights

Moon coming up over purple twinkle lights at festive art opening

Then, we moved on to Taller de Grafica La Chicharra at Xicotencatl #317. This is a cooperative workshop studio where you can also take classes. Tonight, Saturday, March 19, there is a new show opening and they were readying for it. Spectacular work here, too, by MK Kabrito (Alan Altamirano) plus many others, much of it affordable! Check out the T-Shirts.

Great graphic T-shirts at La Chicarra graphic workshop

Great graphic T-shirts at La Chicarra graphic workshop

After a stop into Proyecto 30-30, Hidalgo #1208, where a graphic arts show of humorous political images hang.  By now, it was close to 8 p.m. and I knew Cooperativa Grafica Oaxaca at Manuel Doblado #210 closed at 7 p.m.  I had stopped in there earlier in the afternoon to get some great prints on fabric buttons that I will give as gifts. Agave, calavera skulls and animal images make great hat adornment.

Wall murals highlight artist work space

Wall murals highlight artist work space at Gabo Mendoza studios

We decided it was time to get a bite to eat, so walked a few blocks north on Xicotencatl that changes name to Pino Suarez when it crosses Independencia.  El Sol y La Luna Restaurante Bar, Pino Suarez #304 was our destination. Open 7 p.m. t0 midnight. Artisanal beer on tap, mezcal and sueros are featured beverages. I watched as thin crusted pizzas a la the best of Italy came out of the kitchen. We ordered cheese stuffed calzones — each crusty deliciousness. Next time, maybe a hamburger. They looked good, too.

Some tools of the artist craft

Some tools of the artist craft

Evenings this time of year are delightful. A wind comes up. Chills the hot air. Takes the edge off the beginning of the hot, spring rainy season (the rains haven’t come yet, though). Everything is in bloom. Purple Jacaranda line the avenues. A perfect time for an evening stroll to enjoy this city’s art scene and support the young artists who have so much to say through their work.

Contact: walkoaxaca@gmail.com or Facebook: artewalkoaxaca

At La Chicharra graphic arts studio and gallery

At La Chicharra graphic arts studio and gallery