190410: Mexican Festival

Palais des Beaux-Arts Mexican Festival Mexican portraits from early days to Frida Kahlo – including El Greco For the first time since 1993, Mexican art has returned to Brussels. The current exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts is marked by the 200th anniversary of country’s independence as well as the 100th anniversary of the Mexican revolution. The country with the eagle on a cactus, a symbol of the solar deity for the founding site of Mexico, welcomes the visitor with a kind of baby face (approx. 1000 B.C.): the sturdy sitting something with its slanted eyes attests the theory of ancient immigrants to Mexico being of Asian origin. A massive Olmec head (approx. 1500 B.C.), discovered in the 19th century in the bay of Mexico, marks the country’s cultural birth. Mexican art: visitors to the Palais des Beaux-Arts can admire 150 pieces from Mexican collections, ranging from the sparse highlights of the early history of the Olmec culture (1200 – 1600 B.C.) to the Aztecs (until 1500 A.D.). The age of discoveries, colonisation and so-called Christianization lets two continents collide culturally and creates odd mixtures stretching into the 18th century, which, however, ended with Mexico’s cultural downfall. Through the revolutionary art and the romantic-historicizing style, which then followed, the panoramic undertaking ended in the middle of the 20th century: with Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo, and the photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravos. And – for the sake of completeness - the muralists such as Orozoco, Rivera, and Siqeiros are also represented, however not with their best works. The main emphasis on the “mexicanidad” (Mexicanness) with its permanent closeness to old languages, materials and legends, thereby marking the strongest contrast to European contemporary art, would have definitely been more enlightening for the European Brussels. Meanwhile, the anonymous portrait of a noble Indian woman in a pearl embroidered gown (1757) seems to point to another highlight of the exhibition in Brussels: Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954). Even the small number of works (30) presented, all on loan from Dolores Omedo’s private Kahlo collection, convey a complete and concentrated picture of this artist-phenomenon. An icon of the women’s movement, collected by Madonna, and Selma Hayek as the cineaste alter ego: Frida Kahlo incorporates all of the clichés of the suffering and seriously ill painter in a steel corset (following a traffic accident at the age of 18). A powerful naïve surrealistic form of narration on the emotional condition of women evolves. And the paintings presented suffice to mediate this in a complex way. In the centre “The broken pillar”, a self-portrait icon in a steel corset (1944), depicting the five-months of her torture. “Only a few cuts” deals with a newspaper article of a drunken man who stabbed his wife: a picture book-like clarity leaving no question unanswered. The Brussels exhibit is a kind of forerunner for the large Frida Kahlo retrsopsetive at the Berlin Gropius-Bau (30.4. – 19.8.2010), where 150 works will be presented. The real sensation at the Brussel-based Palais des Beaux-Arts is undoubtedly the fabulous exhibition of 40 works by Dominikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco. Thanks to the renovation of the Greco museum in Toledo, this unique exhibition travelled to Brussels. The current Spanish EU presidency forms the cultural political setting for Brussels’ El Greco show. The artist, who was vastly more popular among Spanish clerics and private commissioners than among the Spanish court, is oftentimes considered as a proponent of the inquisition. Mad, intoxicated, reminding of Francis Bacon’s modern adaptations, the narrow last room with its 12 saints and Jesus at the head of the room, is a mystery mixture. The sculptural “Jacobus” on its gold background reminds us that El Greco arrived in Toledo via Venice and Rome and was originally an icon painter. His pastel-like “Last Supper” reveals his closeness to Titian and Tintoretto, and the body dynamics in the “Healing of the Blind” reveal his adoration of Michelangelo’s depictions of physical strength. By the way – the exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts was opened on the same day that a Spanish financial commissioner in Brussels ordered the sequestration of Greece. Maybe this is the start of the heeling of the economically blind. By Roland Groß Mexican Festival until 25.4.2010 Frida Kahlo until 18.4.2010 El Greco until 9. 05.2010 Palais des Beaux Arts Ravenstinstraat 23 1000 Brussels Opening hours: Tue – Sun: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thu: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. http://www.bozar.be

Palais des Beaux-Arts
1000 Brüssel, Rue Ravenstein 23
Tel: +49 2 507 82 00
Öffnungszeiten: Di-So 10 - 18, Do 10 - 21 h

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