Between 1975 when it was founded and 2018 when it hopes to open a permanent home at Mission and Third streets, San Francisco's Mexican Museum has accumulated more than 16,000 objects of art, ranging in age from pre-colonial days to the present.
From that hidden mother lode stored in four warehouses, curator David J. de la Torre has selected 45 works by 30 modern artists for an exhibit in the museum's temporary quarters in Fort Mason's Building D. The show, “20th Century Mexican Masters” occupies the two medium-size galleries in the museum office and admission is free.
De la Torre, the museum’s director of exhibitions, education and public programs, says the works on view were selected “based on historical impact and influence of the artist, and the aesthetic quality of the individual work.”
An “eloquently executed” ink on paper drawing of workers building the Bay Bridge by Diego Rivera is among the more notable pieces in the show.
In addition to Rivera, the two most important Mexican artists included are David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, both represented by lithographs. Works by these three appear in a section of the show called “Los Tres Grandes.”
Another section includes classic and figurative works, and another focuses on mostly surrealistic pieces, dating from the 1920s, when Mexican artists – including Leonora Carrington and Alice Rahon – who visited Europe were inspired by Cubism and Surrealism.
A fourth group features post-World War II abstract expressionism, with works by Gunther Gerzo and Leonardo Nierman. Also on view are Matthias Goeritz’s strange and striking 1949 untitled gouache, Vicente Rojo’s bold 1969 “Señal III” and Leticia Tarrago’s 1970 etching “Visitante” with an elephant in the center of disjointed figures.
Pedro Friedeberg’s acrylic on board “Explicit Mysterium” – in which small 3-D pyramids radiate from down from the center, where “R.S.V.P.” is inscribed – exemplifies the artist’s cross-cultural background, as well as the fact that Mexico, like the U.S. is a melting pot, a place where people from many countries settle. Friedeberg’s family migrated from Germany to Italy, and then to Mexico, where the artist grew up to become a community activist as well as renowned artist.
Coinciding with the show’s opening is debut of the museum's new president and CEO. Cayetana Gómez, an artist who has worked in fundraising, communications, public relations and photography. The daughter of museum officials in Mexico City, she says, “I spent my childhood in the Anthropology Museum, where my mother worked for 30 years.”
She adds, “Mexico is a country that's a museum by itself, a wonderful millennial culture.”
IF YOU GO
20th Century Mexican Masters
Where: Mexican Museum, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays; closes June 28
Admission: Free (donation suggested)
Contact: (415) 202-9700, www.mexicanmuseum.org