Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945 at Whitney Museum of American Art, February 17–May 17, 2020

“The cultural renaissance that emerged in Mexico in 1920 at the end of that country’s revolution dramatically changed art not just in Mexico but also in the United States. With approximately 200 works by sixty American and Mexican artists, Vida Americana reorients art history, acknowledging the wide-ranging and profound influence of Mexico’s three leading muralists—José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera—on the style, subject matter, and ideology of art in the United States made between 1925 and 1945. By presenting the art of the Mexican muralists alongside that of their American contemporaries, the exhibition reveals the seismic impact of Mexican art, particularly on those looking for inspiration and models beyond European modernism and the School of Paris.

Works by both well-known and underrecognized American artists will be exhibited, including Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Eitarō Ishigaki, Jacob Lawrence, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock, Ben Shahn, Thelma Johnson Streat, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff. In addition to Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, other key Mexican artists in the exhibition include Miguel Covarrubias, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Mardonio Magaña, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, and Rufino Tamayo.” — Whitney Museum of American Art

Installation views of Vida Americana. Photographs by Corrado Serra.


Exhibition entrance


Left: José Clemente Orozco, Reproduction of Prometheus, 1930, photo: Fredrik Nilsen. Right: Alfredo Ramos Martínez, The Malinche (Young Girl of Yalala, Oaxaca), c. 1940


Left: Frida Kahlo, Me and My Parrots, 1941. Center: Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Calla Lily Vendor, 1929. Right: Frida Kahlo, Two Women (Salvadora and Herminia), 1928


Left: Luis Arenal, Zapatista, n.d. Right: Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Zapatistas, 1932


Left: Diego Rivera, Agrarian Leader Zapata, 1931. Right: Diego Rivera, The Flowered Barge, 1931


Left: Diego Rivera, The Flowered Barge, 1931. Right: Diego Rivera, Flower Festival: Feast of Santa Anita, 1931


Left: Jackson Pollock, Untitled (Figure Composition), 1938–41. Right: Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1939–42


Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish, Jules Langsner. Reproduction of The Struggle against Terrorism (The Struggle against War and Fascism), 1934–35


Left: Diego Rivera, Pneumatic Drilling, 1931–32. Right: Harold Lehman, The Driller (mural, Rikers Island, New York), 1937


Thomas Hart Benton, American Historical Epic, 1927–28


Left: David Alfaro Siqueiros, The Resurrection, 1946. Right: Charles White, Progress of the American Negro: Five Great American Negroes, 1939–40


David Alfaro Siqueiros, Our Present Image, 1947


Section Art as Political Activism


Diego Rivera, Study for Man at the Crossroads, 1932


Left: Diego Rivera, Reproduction of Man, Controller of the Universe, 1934. Center: Hugo Gellert, Us Fellas Gotta Stick Together (The Last Defenses of Capitalism), 1932. Right: Ben Shahn, The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1932


Diego Rivera, Reproduction of Man, Controller of the Universe, 1934


Abelardo L. Rodriguez Market, Three-channel video, color, sound; 4:59 min.

Vida Americana was organized by Barbara Haskell, curator, with Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator; Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant; and Alana Hernandez, former curatorial project assistant.