In the wake of Mexico’s revolution, artists played a fundamental role in constructing a national identity centered on working people and were hailed for their contributions to modern art. In this talk John Lear will present his new book, which examines three aspects of this artistic legacy: the parallel paths of organized labor and artists’ collectives, the relations among these groups and the state, and visual narratives of the worker. He explores how artists and labor unions participated in a cycle of revolutionary transformation from 1908 through the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940). Middle-class artists, radicalized by the revolution and the Communist Party, fortified the legacy of the prerevolutionary print artisan José Guadalupe Posada by incorporating modernist, avant-garde, and nationalist elements in ways that supported and challenged unions and the state. By 1940, the state undermined the autonomy of radical artists and unions, while preserving the image of both as partners of the “institutionalized revolution.”
Professor John Lear is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Puget Sound.