Mexican Artists Matter

Article by Rianna Last

The year 2020 hasn’t been easy, but amidst all the chaos that has ensued, there has been a ripple of positive change across America. Thanks to a rise in national activism, the art world has taken an active stance on artist representation within its communities. Across the country, art communities are committing to recognizing those who have been historically underrepresented in America. While the most viral topic has circled around #blacklivesmatter (we wrote an article about this), there is notably another group whose art has significantly influenced American culture and arts: Mexican artists

The Intertwined History between Mexican and American Art

Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo painting
Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931 by Frida Kahlo
Image from fridakahlo.org

Historically speaking, American education has often overlooked the strong connection between Mexican and American art. Instead, the focus has primarily centered on a few famous names. Most Americans have certainly heard of the iconic Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera—two of the most famous Mexican artists to emerge from the 20th century. While Diego Rivera was a pioneer in the Mexican muralism movement, his wife Frida Khalo is famously known for her modern self-portraits (and as one of the most well-known female Mexican artists of her time). Yet beyond these two popular figures, little is circulated about Mexican artists and the intertwined art history of Mexico and the United States.

American art in the 20th century has often been thought to be primarily influenced by the French, but a deeper glance reveals the history behind Mexican artists and their significant impact upon American art within and beyond the last century. Notably, it was during the roaring 20s that Mexican artists like “los tres grandes,” Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, crossed the border to America. Seeking opportunities to display their mural artwork, as chances shriveled up within their own country, their pieces conveyed a sense of emotional depth that resonated with Americans. Often depicting the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution—a period acknowledged by experts as a catalyst for Mexican art—their political artwork helped shape the future of art in our country. As these artists portrayed the struggle of their people in a tumultuous time, American artists were in turn inspired to focus on rising issues and events within their own country, such as materialism and the burgeoning Great Depression. 

Unfortunately, as appreciation and fascination for Mexican art rose in the United States, so did anti-immigration beliefs. Growing hostility toward the people, but a veneration for their art, placed tension on the growing relationship between the two countries, ultimately undermining Mexico’s artistic influence. It is only within recent years, as our country actively works to highlight outside of Eurocentric art, that more attention has been paid to Mexican artists’ contributions. Learning this background also helps to explain why it’s so important we recognize that a portion of the foundation for our modern art came from Mexican artists.

One recent exhibit showcasing this impact at the Whitney Museum of American Art states that this shifting perspective on art history reminds us that ‘“art essentially is universal and doesn’t accord to borders.”’ Indeed, investing in Mexican and Mexican American artists represents a societal move toward inclusion and support of cultural exchange, which is why Artlita is dedicated to highlighting the intertwined art history between our two cultures.  

Artlita’s Mission

With this history in mind, San Diego art gallery Artlita has played an active role in supporting these artists since our formation. As we celebrate the national rise of Latino museums, exhibitions highlighting Mexican and Mexican American artists, along with news articles covering achievements of Chicano artists, we want to call attention to our own talented community. 

As an online art gallery whose regional focus falls within Southern and Baja California, Mexican artists and Mexican American artists are an important and foundational part of our business. Making up 26% of the Artlita Artist Community, our featured artists include the likes of Alvaro Blancarte and Alejandro Martinez-Pena, who are an integral part of our gallery roster. Our artists’ original works of art both reflect the artists’ experiences and inspire those who look upon them. 

Our Featured Artists

Contemporary mixed-media painting by Alvaro Blancarte
Reventando el Negro by Alvaro Blancarte

To expand upon our artists’ histories, the talented Alvaro Blancarte was born in Culiacan, Sinaloa in 1934 and made Tecate, Baja California Norte his permanent residence in 1986. His speciality lies in contemporary, mixed-media paintings. For him, painting functions as a journal and a way for him to tell a story. His work has been displayed across innumerable respected institutions and galleries across Mexico, along with many in California and Arizona, including a collection permanently featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He’s also been honored by exhibitions in England, Cuba, Panama, Spain, Columbia, Italy and Japan to name a few. 

In addition to being an avid painter, Blancarte found his second calling as a mentor. He first founded the Culiacan School of Arts in 1971. Motivated by his passion for teaching and mentoring other artists, in the decades that followed he founded 3 other art schools that are affiliated with the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, the Instituto Sinaloense de Cultura and the Centro Cultural Tijuana. His artwork “Revantando el Negro”, shown on the left, is in his signature neo fresco style, and evokes the magic of ancient artwork found in caverns. Using a wide variety of materials to create his art, the texture of Alvaro’s artwork conveys a depth best appreciated in person.

Contemporary mixed-media painting by Alejandro Martinez-Pena
Paisajes Sublimes IV by Alejandro Martinez-Pena

Alejandro Martinez-Pena, who has lived in Tijuana, Baja California Norte since 1981, creates vibrant contemporary fine art, which is also considered mixed-media, although the end result of the two artists’ work are strikingly different. Self-described as continually experimenting within abstract expressionism, Alejandro’s paintings convey both social and environmental concerns. He too has been exhibited all over the world in countries including Mexico, the United States of America, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Italy, Thailand, Korea, Poland, China, Singapore, and most recently Oman. His style, as seen in “Paisajes Sublimes IV,” is colorful and textured, created using organic elements. 

The bold nature of both of these artists’ work makes them an excellent choice for statement pieces in a home or public space.

Our founder, Aleta Daria, was born in Los Angeles and has lived in San Diego—the city that hugs the border— since 1995. Having been positively impacted by Mexican culture and deep friendships with Mexican friends, she’s thrilled to have an opportunity to shine light on the beauty of this region. From local San Diego artists to those across the way in Mexico, Artlita’s mission to elevate emerging artists is inspiring to both artists and collectors alike: 

The mission of Artlita to improve the life experience of both collectors and artists is something beautiful that we support,” says Alejandro Martinez-Pena. “I am so honored that Artlita sought me out from among the many talented Mexican artists, on both sides of the border, to be part of a select group of creators with unique style and perspective.”

Looking Ahead

Join us in our journey to invest in meaningful art and their creators and be a part of the change. If you are a rising artist across the Southern and Baja California regions, contact us here. Come join the Artlita Artist Community!

National Museum of Mexican Art

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