The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art highlights its collection of modern and contemporary Mexican art in its latest exhibition.
Caja de visiones, or “Box of Visions” includes pieces from the artistic renaissance in Mexico during the first half of the 20th century. However, these pieces are featured alongside recent work created by Mexican and Mexican-American artists working in the Midwest today.
“We have a lot of things we’ve done for this exhibition because it’s a major one for us. It goes until the end of January,” MMoCA’s Director of Education and Programs Charlotte Cummins told Madison365.
MMoCA planned a number of events for members of the community to engage with the exhibition including talks, lectures, workshops and a poetry reading. The museum hosted a gallery talk on opening night featuring six contemporary artists responding to themes from artwork a part of MMoCA’s permanent collection.
“The coolest thing about hearing them speak was to hear the ties we have as people of color,” Cummins said. “…There was a feeling of solidarity there, supporting one another knowing that sometimes in the United States we are disenfranchised in certain ways or kind of seen as not real Americans or seen as second-class Americans.”
Cummins also spoke about how she solicited input from an advisory committee of Latinos from Madison. She also received suggestions from some of the workshop facilitators.
“We were talking about different places to promote and put the posters up to get people to come to the workshops because we really want to have the Latino community come,” Cummins said.
This Friday the museum will also host “Poetry Speaks: A response to “Caja de visiones.” Participating poets include Dana Maya, Madison’s first Latino Poet Laureate Oscar Mireles, Dominique Salas, current Madison Poet Laureate Angie Trudell Vasquez and Marty Lopez.
“We wanted to present the really wonderful collection of Mexican modern art in a way that was relevant to contemporary audiences, today’s audiences and a little differently than ways we’ve presented in the past,” Anderson said.
The museum’s collection of Mexican modern art is one of the most extensive in the Midwest and includes 223 works by over 60 artists. MMoCA’s collection comprises primarily prints, photographs, and drawings by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Leopoldo Méndez, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and Rufino Tamayo, and, of course, Frida Kahlo.
“In 1968, we received a really impactful and transformative gift of over a thousand works of art from two collectors that were here, local to Madison who shaped our collection in many ways, Rudolph and Louise Langer, so the Langers donated this really large collection of Mexican art,” MMoCA’s Assistant Curator Elizabeth Shoshany Anderson said.
The Langers, who died in the 1960s, are remembered for their rich contributions. Their gift included more than 200 works by artists in Mexico.
“The Langers would drive down. They would purchase artwork from galleries. They would ask the galleries ‘what artists are you interested in this area?’ and ‘how can we keep an eye on them?’ and oftentimes they would even prepay emerging artists in Mexico to send them their new work when they came out with it,” Anderson said.
The exhibition connects modern and contemporary artworks demonstrating thematic parallels. Some of the artwork makes references of revolution, social justice, activism, cultural heritage and pride. A lot of these themes transcend time.
“We cooperated with a woman [Andrea-Teresa “Tess” Arenas] who runs an organization called Wisconsin Latinx Historical Collective and she wanted to do some interviews with some Mexican and Mexican Americans that were in our exhibitions, and also some of the members of the Latino Advisory Committee which advised on the exhibition,” MMoCA’s Director of Communication Marni McEntee said.
This project also included speaking to attendees about their reflections on the artwork and how some of the themes relate to today. Cummins said sometimes we look at the art on the walls, study them in books and watch interviews of the artists, but in our minds, we think that art is something very elitist and only certain people get to be an artist.
“We get to see that there are real-life people making art,” Cummins said.
Join MMoCA tonight, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the main galleries of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State Street, for Poetry Speaks: A response to Caja de visiones. Learn more about the participating poets here. For more information about Caja de visiones, click here.