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Cultural Climate in Mexico in the 1940s-1960s


As part of Visit Corpus Christi’s coverage of The Color of Being/El Color del Ser: DOROTHY HOOD, we sought the expert advice of Dr. Carey Rote, Professor of Art at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 drove many young artists out of Mexico to pursue their early careers. All of this changed in 1921, when José Vasconcelos was appointed the first Secretary of Public Education in a more politically stable Mexico. Lured by the great promise of large mural programs by Vasconcelos, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco returned home, brandishing their newly learned fresco techniques.

By the early 1940s, when Dorothy Hood drove to Mexico City for a visit, the Mexican art world was considered all the rage in the United States. Artists like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo had been working in the United States during the 1930s. They had achieved an almost celebrity status and were followed around by the click-click-click of the paparazzi.

Dorothy Hood Art Exhibit - Art History Image 1

from the Art Museum of South Texas Dorothy Hood Archives

In addition, the storm clouds of World War II in Europe had forced many artists, writers, musicians and philosophers to the New World. Some chose New York or Chicago, but other intellectuals went to Mexico City. They were no doubt attracted to the liberal environment where artistic ideologies of many types flourished. Modernist styles of Europe and Russia had been embedded in the young Mexican artists when they were studying abroad in the early part of the 20th century.

The Mexican intelligentsia banded together to discuss new theories of art. They encouraged new ideas. This explosion of ideas attracted many American artists as well. Some went to Mexico City, others to San Miguel de Allende, to nurture new and innovative art styles away from the glaring eyes of the New York critics.

Dorothy Hood Art Exhibit - Art History Image 2
from the Art Museum of South Texas Dorothy Hood Archives

Mexico was the place to be! And Dorothy Hood could not extract herself from it so easily. Her brief visit turned into an 18-year stay and helped to meld her into a ground breaking artist. The lessons about art that she learned there would stay with her unto the end of her life, shaping her into a bold and innovative leader in the American art world.

---Dr. Carey Rote, Professor of Art,
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

See history come to life during The Color of Being/El Color del Ser at the Art Museum of South Texas through January 8, 2017.

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