COURTESY MEXICAN MUSEUMFrancisco Zuniga’s “Mother with Child” is among the figurative works on view in “Maestros: 20th Century Mexican Masters.”

COURTESY MEXICAN MUSEUMFrancisco Zuniga’s “Mother with Child” is among the figurative works on view in “Maestros: 20th Century Mexican Masters.”

Modern Mexican art’s diversity revealed in ‘Maestros’

International movements and Mexican history come together in “Maestros: 20th Century Mexican Masters.”

The exhibition, at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco through June 28, contains 40 paintings, sculptures and works on paper created by 30 of Mexico’s major postrevolutionary artists, dating from the 1920s through the course of modernism.

Many of the diversely rooted works on view reflect colonial and postcolonial European influences, including cubism and surrealism. At the same time, many works indicate a breaking from European trends, along with a postrevolutionary emphasis on noncolonial, native and distinctly Mexican styles and themes.

Los Tres Grandes – Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros – receive primary focus. The three were central forces in Mexico’s muralism movement, which set the tone in Mexican art in the first half of the century, and were also influential worldwide. They were known for creating large murals in fresco as well as their social realism and revolutionary, pro-Mexico political passion.

Rivera’s regard for Mexico’s poor and working classes is evident in even small works on paper, such as a scene of on-the-job laborers.

Orozco demonstrates his concern for human despair in “Agony.” The oil painting features a bent-over figure whose anguish the artist conveys with expressive brushstrokes and heightened skin tones.

Artists associated with Los Tres Grandes include Jean Charlot, whose work contains bold colors, geometric shapes, and Mayan imagery.

Often, the artists display both a commitment to Mexican subjects and a connection to European art.

Roberto Montenegro was a Mexican folk-art advocate whose work contained hints of his time spent in Europe, where he met Picasso, Braque, and other giants. His 1946 painting in the exhibit contains two Picasso-like figures and a cubist-looking background. Surrealism accounts for a substantial part of the show. Featured surrealists include Rufino Tamayo, who broke with the muralists, disapproving of their nationalist tone and political brand of social realism, and Britain-born Leonora Carrington, who painted symbolic, cultural and mythological images.

Francisco Zuniga, whose 1973 lithograph “Mother with Child” reveals an interest in Renaissance, representational and Central American traditions, is among the exhibit’s art-history-embracing figurative artists. Another highlight is Rafael Coronel’s “Old Woman,” a red and black portrait whose subject embodies gravity and dignity. Classical in character, the painting brings to mind the art of Goya.

Post-World War II abstract works include those by Vicente Rojo, Leticia Tarrago and Mathias Goeritz. A 1970 Goeritz work consisting of a gold-leaf-covered gessoed wood panel looks at once 14th-century inspired and quintessentially modern.

Display cases contain books and other items, including paintbrushes used by Rivera.


Maestros: 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; closes June 28

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 202-9700,

Art & MuseumsartsDiego RiveraMaestros: 20th Century Mexican MastersMexican Museum

Just Posted

A large crack winds its way up a sidewalk along China Basin Street in Mission Bay on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s sinking sidewalks: Is climate change to blame?

‘In the last couple months, it’s been a noticeable change’

For years, Facebook employees have identified serious harms and proposed potential fixes. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2019, and COO Sheryl Sandberg have rejected the remedies, causing whisteblowers to multiply. (Eric Thayer/New York Times)
Facebook’s problems at the top: Social media giant is not listening to whistleblowers

Whistleblowers multiply, but Zuckerberg and Sandberg don’t heed their warnings

Maria Jimenez swabs her 7-year-old daughter Glendy Perez for a COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance in San Rafael on Sept. 25. (Penni Gladstone/CalMatters)
Rapid COVID-19 tests in short supply in California

‘The U.S. gets a D- when it comes to testing’

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led a late-game comeback against the Packers, but San Francisco lost, 30-28, on a late field goal. (Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers)
The Packers beat the Niners in a heartbreaker: Don’t panic

San Francisco is no better and no worse than you thought they were.

A new ruling will thwart the growth of solar installation companies like Luminalt, which was founded in an Outer Sunset garage and is majority women-owned. (Philip Cheung/New York Times)
A threat to California’s solar future and diverse employment pathways

A new ruling creates barriers to entering the clean energy workforce

Most Read