Mexico: A Revolution in Art at the RA

The Royal Academy’s Mexico: A Revolution in Art exhibition has been on my to-do list all summer. And this week I FINALLY got around to going.

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It was a beautifully hot day in London, and I was carrying a lot of library books- as that was my next stop, so I arrived a little bit sweaty and flustered- but I’ll spare you the gory details.

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The Royal Academy itself is just a lovely place to visit: I really felt like I was treating myself as I walked through the bright courtyard and into the main entrance, bought my ticket and ascended the stairs to the Sackler Galleries.

The exhibition documents the changes in Mexican cultural life after the Revolution of 1910, as well as documenting the political changes of the following thirty years. It is displayed chronologically, with a description of the political situation at the start of each room. What I thought was most interesting about the way the exhibition was displayed, was the way it seamlessly mixed the art of native Mexican artists with photographs of the period and the art of Americans and Europeans who had visited Mexico at the time. It struck me that the way we tend to think of Mexican art- as full of bright colours and simplified, stylized figures, was more characteristic of the non-Mexican art. The Mexican artists tended, on the whole, to be far more naturalistic, both in their use of colour and depictions of people. It seemed to me that the European and American artists were trying to live up to this idea of naïve Mexican art, a similar one to the views that I think we still hold today. Not knowing much about the Mexican Revolution, this exhibition taught me a lot, not only about the art of Mexico, but about the politics of the early 20th century too.

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There was a strict ‘no photos’ policy and, while I did take a few sneaky sneaky snaps on my phone, I am a little bit too scared to post them online- for fear of the RA mafia coming after me. So these (kind of lame, I know) pictures of the outside and my tickets will have to do.

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Some of my personal favourites include Francisco Goitia’s Old Man Seated on a Trash Heap of 1926-27. While there was an obvious sadness about this melancholy old man seated atop his mountain of rubbish, there was something strangely beautiful too. This beauty, I think, lay in the use of colours- clear, uninterrupted blue sky juxtaposed with the, well, trash-y browns and greys. I was also quite taken by Edward Burra’s El Paseo, which depicts an urban, city scene. The scene appears normal at first, however upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the figures which mill about in the moonlight and dance to the brass band, are actually skeletal, grey and dead looking.

This is one show that I would highly recommend seeing. It is fairly expensive, especially considering that it is only four rooms! But it is definitely worth every penny!

It closes at the end of September so go soon! Info here: http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/mexico/

xxR

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