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The Artist as a Laborer: Not an Elite

By Línda Vanesa Perla

In my Latin American Art Since Contact class we are beginning to venture into the Mexican Revolution and the influence Art had on the post-revolution Mexican Identity.

I must begin by stating that the Mexican Revolution began in 1910. Meaning Mexico as an independent country is still young. Meaning the Mexican Identity and what we know to be discussed and transcribed by intellectuals is still young.

However, the Mexican Renaissance (post-Revolution) is not to be seen as pre-pubescent or ill formed. Rather, it is a well articulated and purposeful government driven device to reconstruction; a syncretic mean of reclaiming Aztec/Mexchica ancestry while acknowledging hegemonic Spanish influences. It marked the rebirth of Mexican traditions as well as the reconciliation of modernity, Catholicism, and indigenous culture.

The government was looking towards the Italian Renaissance as a model for the Mexican Renaissance while also publicly establishing the presence of art as propaganda.

In El Machete: Newspaper of the Works and Peasants artist such as: Diego Rivera, José Orozco (two of the greatest muralists), alongside Secretary-General David Alfaro Siqueiros, wrote Manifesto of the Union of Mexican Workers, Technicians, Painters and Sculptors. This manifesto outlines the ways that Mexico States will pair up with artists to bridge the transition of the old order to the new order.

“The art of the Mexican people is the most important and vital spiritual manifestation in the world today, and its Indian traditions lie at its very heart. It is great precisely because it is of the people and therefore collective. That is why our primary aesthetic aim is to propagate works of art which will help destroy all traces of bourgeois individualism…We believe that any work of art which is alien or contrary to popular taste is bourgeois and should disappear because it perverts the aesthetic of our race…We believe that while our society is in a transitional stage between the deconstruction of an old order and the introduction of a new order, the creators of beauty must turn their work into clear ideological propaganda for the people, and make art, which at present is mere individualist masturbation, something of beauty, education, and purpose for everyone.”

At a time when there seems to be a yearning for a rejection of the old order and a call to new order the idea of Art as propaganda as to the Mexican post-Revolutionary definition seems to provide a guiding light.

The artist was considered a laborer and an intellectual. Not an elite intellectual. But a revolutionary and co-constructer of the state.



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