3000 Years of Mexican Art Enliven Woodson Art Museum Galleries

. January 29, 2010

WAUSAU, WISCONSIN: Las Artes de Mexico, opening January 30 at the Woodson Art Museum, celebrates the rich and diverse artistic history of Mexico. Through more than 120 works, the exhibition traces over 3000 years of art and culture, from the ancient worlds of the Mayans and Aztecs to twentieth-century pieces by well-known modernists including Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. The exhibition remains on view through April 11.

Mexican culture is a mosaic of traditions. Art of the long-ago Mexican world often centered on ritual and performance, as seen in artifacts from over a dozen Pre-Columbian cultures, including Olmec, Vera Cruz, and Toltec. They reveal a world of ceremony and celebration, ritual warfare, and veneration of the dead.

The founding of New Spain in the 1500s brought radical change to the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica. Conquistador armor and Aztec blades in the exhibition highlight the initial conflict between these two worlds. For the next 300 years, Spanish influence remained a dominant force in Mexican life as is strikingly seen in colonial period retablos (paintings on wood of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or saints), folk portraits, and carvings of patron saints that merge Catholic iconography and native art.

The exhibition also explores Mexican weaving and the role of the loom from antiquity to present day, as well as the multihued costumes and glittering fabrics that have long been a mainstay of folk celebrations. These festivals and dances are further examined through a collection of colorful dance masks. While the masks were used in important feast day and religious festivities, they also served as a form of political satire to protest the sometimes violent relationship between Europeans and indigenous Mexican peoples.

Social commentary and development of the modern Mexican state, characterized by the work of Rivera and Orozco, became a hallmark of Mexican art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After a Constitution was established in 1917 following the Great Revolution of 1910, social issues were gradually addressed, political calm returned, and artists began to increasingly focus on images of ordinary members of society.

Through pottery, costumes and textiles, paintings, folk arts, masks, and graphics, Las Artes de Mexico illuminates the complexity and simplicity, the old and the new, the light and the color, the past and the present that comprise the tapestry of Mexican art.

UMR, a UnitedHealthcare Company, is the presenting sponsor of Las Artes de Mexico, and Charter Communications and Newsline 9 are the media sponsors.

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

Woodson Art Museum Franklin and 12th Streets, Wausau, Wisconsin (700 N. 12th Street)
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Fax: 715-845-7103
E-mail: museum@lywam.org

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