The massive murals that began to fill Mexico's public buildings in the early 1920s represent the nationalism that pervaded the country in the aftermath of its ten-year revolution. As the old regime of power that had maintained strict class and racial... [more]
The massive murals that began to fill Mexico's public buildings in the early 1920s represent the nationalism that pervaded the country in the aftermath of its ten-year revolution. As the old regime of power that had maintained strict class and racial divides appeared to have overturned, intense optimism swept the country. Many of the key political players and intellectuals behind the revolution took seats within the newly democratic government, effecting social, economic, and political
Painters who had participated in the revolution, such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, and those who had revolutionary sentiments, such as Diego Rivera, became central in defining a new artistic iconography and aesthetic for Mexico. While still maintaining their personal styles, all three painters adopted a bold, accessible form of Social Realism to convey intensely powerful political messages. Often having an explicitly Socialist bent, the murals conflated both spatially and temporally diverse groups within the nation's history: the indigenous Pre-Columbian peoples; the contemporary, largely indigenous peasantry whose toil had supported the opulence of the old European-dominated regime; individuals who had played key roles within the revolution; and the power-hungry, money-grubbing elite who had once dominated the country. The gestures of these figures retold the nation's history and valorized the indigenous peoples in a form all could understand.
Both the style and iconography of the muralists marked a radical shift from the individual experiments of Modernism that occupied much of European and American art. While both Rivera and Siqueiros had studied art in Europe, they rejected the apolitical role of the artist. Siqueiros stated: "We proclaim at this time of social change from a decrepit order to a new one, the creators of beauty must use their best efforts to produce ideological works for the people; art must no longer be the expression of individual satisfaction (that) it is today, but should aim to become a fighting educative art for all".