I receive a lot of false and baseless emails on history. Today, I received one that blew my gourd. In response I am cutting and pasting a set of articles correcting historical knowledge for truth-seekers to share about immigration (and illegal expulsion) history in the USA. Here are writings about or from Christina Velenciana, Richard Vogel, and Margarita Nieto. They begin to uncover the distorted history swirling around us on the web. (Please skim through.)
GOOD EXAMPLE #1: Christina Valenciana’s story of about one-million illegal expulsions from the USA in the 1920s and 1930s—including her parents.
By Valerie Orleans
March 17, 2005
Christine Valenciana, assistant professor of elementary and bilingual education, was always aware that her mother, as a child, had been forced to return to Mexico in 1935. What Valenciana didn’t realize was that her mother was just one of up to 2 million Mexican and Mexican-Americans who were deported during that era.
“I thought what happened to her and her family was an isolated incident,” she recalled. “I had no idea that this happened on a much larger scale.”
Here, Valenciana discusses her work as it relates to the mass deportation of people, many of whom were American citizens, that was systematically practiced during the Great Depression.
|Q:||How did you first learn that close to 2 million Mexican and Mexican-Americans were deported to Mexico in the 1930s?|
|A:||I was a history major at Cal State Fullerton, and one of the classes I took was a community history class. Having a Mexican background, I was interested in researching an area that had to do with Mexican-Americans. While I was trying to determine a topic, I spoke with my mother, Emilia Castaneda, about her experience as a child. That’s when I discovered that many families had been deported to Mexico in the late 1920s through the 1930s.Even prior to this, there were “whisper” campaigns and employers were asked not to hire those suspected of being of Mexican descent. Actually, there were laws passed that “aliens” could not be hired to work. In addition, massive deportation raids were conducted throughout the country, including Orange and Los Angeles counties. An atmosphere of fear was created in the Mexican-American community.|
|Q:||So what happened? Why were these people deported?|
|A:||During the Great Depression, anywhere from one to two million people were deported in an effort by the government to free up jobs for those who were considered “real Americans” and rid the county governments of “the problem.” The campaign, called the Mexican Reparation, was authorized by President Herbert Hoover. Although President Franklin Roosevelt ended federal support when he took office, many state and local governments continued with their efforts.Estimates now indicate that approximately 60 percent of the people deported were children who were born in America and others who, while of Mexican descent, were legal citizens.|
|Q:||How did you go about conducting your research?|
|A:||It was all primary research because historians hadn’t really paid much attention to it. I spoke to my mother, who referred me to some of her cousins. I made public announcements and found other interviewees. It snowballed from there. These interviews are housed in the Center for Oral and Public History. Now, I am conducting new research focused
on the education and language of the children and families involved.
|Q:||What was it like for those who were deported?|
|A:||It was traumatic, of course. For example, my mother was nine years old. She lived in Los Angeles. Her dominant language was English, although she knew rudimentary Spanish. Suddenly, she was removed from the only home she’d known, taken out of her school and away from her friends, and sent to an unfamiliar country. She didn’t understand the customs. She was forced to live outdoors. She was teased because she couldn’t speak Spanish very well. And keep in mind that she was an American citizen.|
|Q:||What was it like for adults?|
|A:||It was very difficult for them as well. Mexico also was going through a depression at that time, and it was hard for the adults to find jobs in Mexico. Returning Mexicans were unwanted. Many of these people had jobs, homes and families in the United States. They hadn’t been in Mexico for decades – they couldn’t just pick up and start again.This act literally broke up families. For instance, some who were deported had subsequent children who were born in Mexico – that meant that some children in the same family were American citizens while others were not. As these children grew older and married, they often had children who were born in Mexico and so these children were not considered American citizens either. The effects of this unconstitutional deportation are far ranging and have ramifications even today.|
|Q:||Were there ever any attempts to rectify this wrong?|
|A:||art of the problem is that many did not realize this was part of a huge concerted effort. Now that they’re aware of it, there have been some attempts to recognize what happened. Some looked at what happened to those who were interned in Japanese camps during World War II and recognized that they were, in fact, discriminated against. It’s also important to realize that it took the Japanese community several decades to organize in response against their treatment – and they were still in this country.|
|Q:||What kind of attempts have been made to publicize this?|
|A:||One of our alums – Bernie Enriquez, a field representative for State Sen. Joseph Dunn – was aware of the Mexican Reparation, having read my husband’s – Francisco Balderrama – book, Decade of Betrayal. He brought the book to the attention of Sen. Dunn [D-Santa Ana], who introduced a bill in 2003 asking for a removal of the statute of limitations for survivors like my mother to make claims against the state of California for, what was quite frankly, an unconstitutional deportation.MALDEF [Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund] filed a class action suit on behalf of the survivors. Sen. Dunn sponsored a state senate hearing in July 2003 on this unconstitutional deportation. My mother was one of the survivors who spoke. My husband was an expert historian witness.|
|Q:||What was that like watching your mother?|
|A:||I had very mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was tremendously proud of her. This is a woman – in her 70s – with very little formal education, speaking before a group of powerful legislators. On the other hand, I was nervous for her and helped her prepare. But she did just fine. I asked her what she hoped to get out of all this. She said simply, “I just want people to know what happened.”|
|Q:||Did they get an apology?|
|A:||No. Both Governors Davis and Schwarzenegger refused. Apologizing is an admission of guilt and neither wanted to get involved in what they considered financial ramifications. What was very disappointing about Schwarzenegger’s response was that he indicated that those affected had had years to file civil suits. But most of those who were deported were children. They were abused, had their constitutional rights violated and were kicked out of their country. They weren’t even aware that they had
constitutional rights let alone that they had been violated.
|Q:||So what happens now?|
|A:||Sen. Dunn will re-introduce related legislation. We are doing our best to educate others about what happened so that this never happens to anyone again. People were denied their rights, sent to a foreign land and children were not allowed to finish their education.|
See more at http://www.jstor.org/pss/27502381
GOOD EXAMPLE #2: Richard Vogel also wrote on STOLEN BIRTHRIGHTS
Part II: Exploitation
Mexico never had a chance to recover from the war of 1846-1848. The brutal military conquest not only denied the people of Mexico their birthright in the Southwest, but it impacted the population and damaged the infrastructure of the surviving southern portion of the republic. In addition to the actual injury of the war, during the century and a half since the conquest the U.S. has used its position of power to subordinate Mexico to its own predatory interests, systematically plundering the resources of its southern neighbor, utilizing it as a private market for U.S. products and investment capital, and relentlessly exploiting the labor of the Mexican people. The exploitation of Mexican workers as a reserve army of labor for U.S. capitalism has been especially onerous. The labor repression and exploitation that was initiated soon after the military conquest of 1848 continues to this very day.
Capital and Labor
In capitalist economies, private capital employs wage labor to produce commodities for the market. Some production costs, such as the price of raw material, rent, taxes, etc., are relatively fixed costs. The cost of labor, on the other hand, can vary for a number of reasons. In most industries, labor is a significant element of production, and, therefore, the cost of labor determines the profitability of those enterprises. The price paid for wage labor is, therefore, the basis of the class struggle between the working class that lives by the sale of its labor power and the capitalist class that owns the means of production and hires the workers. Wage laborers try to maximize wages, most effectively through collective bargaining and, if necessary, by striking. Capitalists, on the other hand, embrace anything that drives down the cost of labor. Among the tactics historically used by employers are: union busting, strike breaking, replacing workers by machines, dividing the workers against each others by race, age, gender, or ethnicity, and, locating production in regions where the cost of labor is low. To keep wages as low as possible and profits up, capitalism establishes and maintains a reserve army of labor — marginal workers who are hired during periods of economic expansion, fired during economic downturns, and paid substandard wages.
American capitalism has used Mexican workers as a reserve army of labor since the conquest. The proximity of the Mexican labor pool to points of production ensures a plentiful supply of workers during boom times and facilitates repatriation during economic downturns. The international border is no barrier to this exploitation — U.S. capitalism targets Mexican workers in both countries. As migrants working in the U.S., or as employees of American firms in Mexico, Mexican workers have been excluded from minimum wage requirements, health care benefits, workman’s compensation insurance, and social security plans. Moreover, government health and safety regulations have failed to protect them, while the education and social services that they and their families have received in both Mexico and the U.S. have been minimal. Because of these inferior wages and working conditions, Mexican labor has been a source of enormous superprofits (profits obtained over and above those squeezed out of native workers) for American capitalism.
The American bourgeoisie has jealously guarded these superprofits. At the end of the nineteenth century, U.S. companies regularly enlisted the aid of hired thugs, local law enforcement officials, and state agencies like the Texas and Arizona Rangers to protect their superprofits through the overt suppression of Mexican labor. Since the early 20th century, American capitalists have relied on the federal government to regulate the reserve army of Mexican labor. The U.S Border Patrol was founded in 1924 to control immigrant labor and continues to act as a gatekeeper for U.S. capitalism, opening and closing the border to Mexican workers as the needs of the U.S. economy dictate. Immigration law and government policy have alternatively encouraged Mexican workers to immigrate or subjected them to mass repression and deportation to meet the needs of U.S. capitalism. Furthermore, in order to insure a cheap supply of Mexican labor, the U.S. government has periodically intervened in the domestic politics of Mexico.
Trabajadores del Norte
Large-scale exploitation of Mexican labor began with the U.S. annexation of northern Mexico. Between 1850 and 1880, more than 55,000 Mexican workers migrated to the U.S. to become field hands in regions that had originally been Mexican territory. Significant numbers of Mexican workers were also employed in the U.S. mining and railroad industries. As much as 60 percent of the miners and railway crews in the American West and Southwest during this period were Mexicans. From the very beginning, both the wages and working conditions of Mexican workers in the U.S. were well below those of white workers.
Anglo settlers and capitalists flooded into the annexed territory, and by 1860, just six years after the Gadsden Purchase, the new economic order of the American Southwest was already established with Mexican workers and their families at the bottom. Although both the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Purchase guaranteed pre-war property rights, most Mexican landowners lost their land and either repatriated or sank into the ranks of the Mexican working class of the Southwest. Like their landless immigrant compatriots, they had to earn their living as wage laborers — carpenters, blacksmiths, freighters, servants, field hands, and miners — and always and everywhere at wages less than those paid to white workers.
Mexican workers proved to be essential to the expansion of cattle ranching and agricultural production from California to Texas. Indeed, Mexican labor fueled the southwestern agricultural revolution that took place between 1900 and 1920 and contributed to America’s overall development. However, it was World War I that boosted the demand for Mexican labor in the U.S.
World War I and the Demand for Mexican Labor
World War I began a contest among the imperial powers of Western Europe over the exploitation and division of the world. The industrial revolution and development of capitalism demanded access to raw materials and markets around the world and brought the industrialized nations into open conflict. The U.S., whose primary interests lay in dominating the western hemisphere and penetrating the Far East, was dragged into the conflict because of its economic ties to western European countries, primarily England. When the lucrative wartime trade with England was disrupted, the U.S. declared war on Germany. America’s participation in World War I created a colossal demand for war products and an acute labor shortage at the same time. By 1918, the peak of the war, the U.S. was dispatching 150,000 troops a month to serve in Europe producing an unprecedented domestic manpower shortage.
During this crisis of capitalism and war, legal immigration quotas for Mexico were ignored in order to meet the growing manpower needs in the U.S. From California to Texas, immigration officials did not interfere with the labor recruiters that operated freely on both sides of the border to procure Mexican workers for American business. The initial employment opportunities were low paying agricultural jobs, but as soon as immigrants could find a way, they moved into higher paying service and industrial jobs. They proved to be able workers, performing well in trades such as machinists, mechanics, carpenters, painters, and plumbers. Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, contributed not only to the war effort, but also to the overall economic development and prosperity of the United States during 1920s. They did not, however, have a future in the nation that they helped to create.
The Great Depression and Mass Deportations
During the late 1920s, declining profit margins sparked a worldwide crisis in capitalism known as The Great Depression. The stock market crash of 1929 paralyzed American industry and produced historically high unemployment rates. Mexican and Mexican American workers, along with African Americas and other minorities, were vulnerable elements in the reserve industrial army and among the hardest hit. The political backlash to the widespread economic hardships of the time, which should have been aimed at the capitalist system of exploitation, fell instead on minority workers and their families. Mexican immigrants, welcomed as laborers during the economic boom of the war years, were scapegoated during the depression and subjected to racist attacks and severe immigration restrictions.
Congressman Eugene Black from Texas, testifying before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1929, argued that a strict quota system should be imposed on Mexicans because, in his words, they were, “germ-carriers, inassimilable, a people who are with us but not of us, and not for us.” They had, he argued, a large “percentage of moral and financial pauperism, incapable of development away from that condition, whose influence is forwarding the breaking down of our social fabric….”
Senator Box, also from Texas, wrote a bill to restrict Mexican immigration to the U.S. and forwarded an equally bigoted argument: “The ruling white classes of Mexico, numbering comparatively few, whatever their number are, do not migrate. There is another large class of people of Mexico who are sometimes called ‘greasers’ and other unfriendly names, the great bulk of them are what we ordinarily call ‘peons’, and from this class we are getting this great migration. It is a bad racial element.”
The anti-immigrant hysteria generated during the Great Depression helped defuse the political time bomb of mass unemployment in the U.S. and led directly to the mass deportation of Mexicans. Between 250,000 and 350,000 Mexican workers and their families, many of which included American born children (and therefore American citizens), were deported over the next decade. The Mexican population in the U.S. dropped an estimated 40 percent during the ten-year period. The state of Indiana lost three-fourths of its Mexican population, and another twelve states — Colorado, Illinois, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — all lost over half.
The impact of the mass deportations on Mexican migrants was devastating. Deportees routinely lost their personal property, automobiles, homes, businesses, and other investments in America. In many cases, they were not even allowed time to pick up paychecks or close out savings accounts. The reactionary deportation campaign divided families and decimated communities. Children of migrants were torn from their schools, neighborhoods, and friends and shipped off with their parents or other relatives, and sometimes on their own. Deportees and their families were routinely transported to the nearest border town and force-marched across the international bridge by armed Border Patrol Agents or National Guard troops and warned never to return.
Mexico, which had been in deep financial depression since 1911, was unprepared to receive the flood of deportees, most of whom were destitute when they arrived. The social and economic consequences of already high unemployment in Mexico became ruinous under the crushing pressure of the mass deportations from the U.S. Neither jobs nor basic social services were available to the repatriated.
Thus Mexico, which had been a primary source for cheap labor during the war, became a dumping ground for the problems of American capitalism. And while U.S. politicians gloated about fulfilling their patriotic duty to protect America from “undesirable foreign elements” few Americans were willing to look at the human consequences of U.S. policy for Mexico. One concerned depression-era observer of the mass deportations, however, asked a key question: “Are Mexican immigrants to be sent for again when prosperous times return, to be treated as ‘cheap labor,’ and then returned penniless to poverty-ridden relatives?” The Bracero Program that was instituted during World War II provided the answer to that question.
¡Bienvenido, otra vez!
World War II and the Bracero Program
World War II, a global conflict of widespread death and destruction that eclipsed the horrors of World War I, was a direct result of the Great Depression and, at the same time, resuscitated the crumbling system of world capitalism. U.S. imperialism, which had seized the Philippines and targeted China, was drawn into the conflict when Japanese forces attacked the American navy at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Once again, in time of crisis, American capitalism turned to Mexico to meet its manpower needs.
Ernesto Galazar, the Mexican consulate official assigned to Washington D.C. at the time that the Bracero Treaty was signed in 1942, explained the connections between the war and the labor agreement. Anticipation of war production, he observed, had increased the demand for agricultural workers in the U.S. while military recruitment and industrial expansion were straining both local and national labor supplies. Galazar, giving a Mexican voice to American demands, announced that Mexico was a “natural reserve” of agricultural and railroad maintenance labor for the U.S. and added that Mexico desired to cooperate in America’s war effort by providing manual labor.
Whether or not Mexican workers “desired” to cooperate in the U.S. war effort, they contributed much to the American economy. During World War II and the Cold War that followed it, as many as 5 million Mexican nationals were imported to work in the U.S. During the peak period, over 400,000 Mexicans signed contracts and crossed the border each year. The city of El Paso alone witnessed an annual passage of 80,000 Mexican workers.
The experiences of braceros entering the U.S. through El Paso were typical for Mexican workers employed throughout the Southwest. Workers recruited in Mexican urban centers like Chihuahua signed contracts with the U.S. government and then traveled by train to Ciudad Juárez where they waited until immigration officers stamped their permits and allowed them to cross the border. From El Paso, they were shipped to a processing and holding compound at Fabens, in the Rio Grande Valley, where they were dusted with DDT powder and fed their first meal in America, typically cheap lunch meat or peanut butter on day-old bread. At Fabens, area farmers and ranchers came to inspect the braceros and hire the ones they wanted. The men were then transported to farms and ranches in Texas and New Mexico where they lived and worked for the duration of their contracts.
The labor camps where braceros were quartered were isolated and derelict, seldom meeting the living standards guaranteed for workers by the Official Bracero Agreement. The typical dirt-floored cabins lacked indoor plumbing, often electricity, and, sometimes, even glass in the windows. Wood-burning stoves were provided for cooking and heating, but finding fuel was the responsibility of the tenants.
The health care and occupational safety protection promised to Mexican workers under the Bracero Agreement were the same as those guaranteed to native agricultural laborers, which, in effect, were none. Braceros were frequently ill because of poor sanitary conditions and injuries on the job, and those who did receive medical care in the U.S. were more often treated by a veterinarian than a physician.
Conditions of employment for braceros were harsh. The contractual workday began at 6 A.M. and ended at 5 P.M. and consisted mostly of fieldwork (picking cotton, harvesting produce, or weeding or thinning crops with a backbreaking, short-handled hoe). The men often had to do additional chores around the farm in the evenings and on Sundays but were usually not paid for the extra work. The minimum wage cited in the Bracero Treaty was 30 cents per hour, and in the mid-1950s a good cotton picker could make 30 dollars a week. Jesús Campoya Calderón, a bracero from San Diego, Chihuahua reported that during one season, “I worked for four months, seven days a week, at least 12 hours every day and I took home almost 300 dollars.” He added, “Those were very good days….”
Once a week, braceros were taken to a local town to buy groceries and cigarettes or send money back home, but they were not welcomed socially. Despite the considerable amounts of money that Mexicans spent in these communities, they were refused service in many public places of business such as cafes, barbershops, and movie theaters unless the municipality had a segregated “Mexican Town” to accommodate them.
Under the terms of the treaty, braceros were permitted to bring their families with them, and, after they got established, many workers sent for their loved ones. The social conditions faced by immigrant families in the U.S. were appalling — in the segregated communities of the Southwest, Mexicans were not welcomed by white churches and, in many districts, their children were not allowed to attend public school with white children. In the most bigoted communities, Mexican patients were not admitted to local hospitals.
Notwithstanding the poor treatment that braceros and their families received in the U.S., many of them did not return to Mexico at the end of their contracts — life as illegal immigrants in the States offered greater economic prospects than returning home.
By the late 1940s, immigration from Mexico was slowing down, but the U.S. war against North Korea in 1950 sparked another labor shortage that was filled by a revival of the Bracero Program in 1951. However, the severe economic recession that followed the Korean War, like the Great Depression, caused a backlash and led to the most reactionary policy that the U.S. has ever instituted against Mexican people in the U.S. — Operation Wetback.
¡Hasta la vista!
The second wave of mass deportations of Mexican workers and their families in the U.S. took place soon after the end of the Korean War. The discharge of tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen and a post-war recession created high unemployment rates and reduced the demand for cheap migrant labor. The official response of the U.S. government to the displaced Mexican workers was Operation Wetback. Retired General Joseph Swing, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) under President Eisenhower, conducted the roundup and deportation of Mexican migrants as a military campaign. Swing reorganized the command structure of the Border Patrol along military lines, obtained new and more powerful weapons and vehicles, and outfitted agents in new forest green uniforms. The general utilized his newly formed Mobile Task Force to maximize the effectiveness of his command and intimidate the migrant community. Swing also enlisted the aid of municipal, county, state, and other federal authorities, including military units, in Operation Wetback.
Mobile Task Force raids began in California in 1953 and moved to Texas in mid-July of 1954. From the Rio Grande Valley, the Task Force headed north to the mid-western states that had sizable Mexican populations. Though Operation Wetback officially targeted only illegal immigrants, many legal residents were caught up in the dragnet and ended up in Mexico just like during the sweeps of the Great Depression. In contrast to the depression-era deportations that dumped the immigrants at the border, during Operation Wetback the INS transported the deportees on busses, trucks, trains, and ships deep into the heart of Mexico in order to make it more difficult for them to return to the U.S. Unauthorized immigrants apprehended in the Midwest were flown to Brownsville and deported from there. Many Mexicans were transported from Port Isabel to Veracruz in crowded and filthy ships. The boatlift, however, was terminated when seven deportees jumped overboard from the Mercurio and drowned. Their tragic deaths provoked a mutiny and lead to a public outcry in Mexico. Deportations dropped off in the fall of 1954 when INS funding ran out.
It is difficult to estimate how many Mexicans were driven from the U.S. by Operation Wetback, but the INS claimed 1,300,000, five times as many immigrants as were displaced during the Great Depression. The San Antonio district of the INS, which included all of Texas outside of El Paso and the Trans-Pecos area, officially reported that it had apprehended more than 80,000 undocumented Mexicans, and officials estimated that an additional 500,000 to 700,000 immigrants in the district fled the country in fear of the Mobile Task Force. The exact toll of Operation Wetback will never be known, but the impact on the Mexican community was destructive. Again, as in the 1930s, families were uprooted and ruined and immigrant communities were destroyed. And again, as during the Great Depression, deportations to Mexico helped defuse the political time bomb of mass unemployment in the U.S. and rescue American capitalism.
The Bracero Treaty was officially repealed 1964 after the widespread abuses of the program were exposed and sparked a political uproar on both sides of the border. However, the exploitation of Mexican labor has continued unabated. Mexican immigrants both legal and illegal continue to toil in the homes, fields, and factories of America. The termination of the bracero program also set the stage for a bold new strategy for the exploitation of Mexican labor — U.S. capitalism moved production across the border into Mexico.
GOOD EXAMPLE #3: Margarita Nieto wrote on more than those who were expelled illegally.
Mexican Art and Los Angeles, 1920-1940s
Relations between Mexico and the United States have been characterized by conflict and tension, territorial and political imbalance. Since 1850, when Mexico lost its northern territories as a result of the Mexican-American war, the historical narrative of the relationship has consistently favored the “Colossus of the North,” according to the poet Rubén Darío. The artistic links between the two nations—the other history—how-ever, pull in Mexico’s direction. The country’s three-thousand-year artistic history is one reason; another is Mexico’s syncretic fusion of European and Mesoamerican cultures.
Mexico’s controversial conception of modernity accounts for the richness of its visual language: along with European tendencies, currents, and aesthetics, Mexican art also incorporates the pre-Cortesian. In contrast to the United States, whose art derives from Western, or European, sources, Mexico’s fusion of the “other,” pre-Cortesian, tradition with the Western tradition has created an art whose proportions and concepts challenge the traditional Western sense of balance and purity. The synthesis of these two aesthetics is Mexico’s contribution to twentieth-century art. Mexico’s contribution to American art during the twenties and thirties, through an intriguing network of cross-cultural experiences involving Mexican and American artists, critics, gallery owners, museums, and collectors, brought about a new awareness of that aesthetic.
In Los Angeles, founded by settlers who had come to California from Mexico, complex bicultural and multicultural narratives were spun out decades before such narratives had acquired a postmodern significance. Though traditionally, viewed as a city without a fine arts tradition, its film and television industries along with its popular art, public art, and muralism prepared a fertile ground for experimentation in the visual arts. Yet both critics and historians have long ignored the Los Angeles aesthetic, initially excluding or marginalizing, for example, the Chicano-Latino art movement of the sixties and seventies.
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This history of cross-cultural influences is one of dichotomies and contradictions: on the one hand, the intellectual and aesthetic fascination with Mexican art and, on the other, the politics of discrimination against the Mexicans and Mexican Americans residing in the United States. It is also a history in which the passion for Mexican art coexists with an interest in economic development and investments in Mexico as a partial solution to the socio-economic problems arising in the United States during the Great Depression.
In the forties and fifties, the emergence of the New York School and abstract expressionism resulted in an about-face. With this original American art movement, not only did the interest in Mexican art fade, but American art history also seemingly chose to ignore the Mexican influences of the twenties and thirties. Moreover, although the United States had now assumed a new international importance as a political and economic power, the postwar period was also characterized by a nationalism bordering on xenophobia and a suspicion of things “foreign.”
This xenophobic self-absorption was a reversal of the attitudes of the twenties and thirties, when the dynamism of the Mexican School of Painting served as a model for the artists and artistic movements in the United States. The government-sponsored muralist projects initiated in Mexico in the twenties were the example that George Biddle used in asking President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to fund the public arts project that became the Works Progress Administration. The American artists Ben Shahn, Philip Guston, and Jackson Pollock, among others, sought out the Mexican painters as teachers and masters.
The events, incidents, and exhibitions of the Mexican presence have been largely ignored or forgotten. What has remained are some references to muralism, the controversy over the Diego Rivera mural at Rockefeller Center in New York, and David Alfaro Siqueiros’s Olvera Street mural in Los Angeles. Yet the presence of these artists, their work, and, most of all, this aesthetic is integral to the social and cultural history of American art: that presence was felt and reflected in the works of the artists Ben Shahn, Edward Weston, Jackson Pollock, Ralph Barton, and Philip Guston and the critics and writers Elie Faure, Walter Pach, Anita Brenner, Alma Reed, Frances Toot, and René d’Harnoncourt. It caught the interest of collectors and patrons such as Henry Ford, Abby Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller, Mrs. Sigmund Stern, and Mrs. Caesar Guggenheimer.
In Los Angeles, collectors and patrons of the Mexican artists included the screenwriters and directors John Huston, Dudley Murphy, Jo Swerling, Josef von Sternberg and Jean Hersholt. Prominent art dealers including Earl Stendahl, Stanley Rose, Howard Putzel, and Jake Zeitlin showed the works of Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros as well as those of Jean Chariot, Roberto Montenegro, Rufino Tamayo, and Federico Cantú. While Los Tres Grandes, the three famous muralists, continue to be the artists most often identified with the period, the painters Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Jorge Juan Crespo de la Serna, Jean Charlot, Francisco Cornejo, Luis Ortiz Monasterio, and José Chávez Morado lived, studied, taught, and worked in Los Angeles during these years
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Moreover, the Mexican influence is evident in the works of the Los Angeles painters Alson Clarke, Phil Paradise, Phil Dike, Millard Sheets, Hugo Ballin, Leo Katz, Boris Deutsch, and Fletcher Martin.
But where did it all begin? Why did Americans invite Mexican artists north to adorn public and private buildings with murals, present workshops, teach in their institutions, and exhibit in local galleries—especially in light of the social and political interaction between Mexico and the United States, marked in the twenties in the Southwest by increasing bigotry and by disdain for Mexicans? The climate of hatred peaked in the thirties with a mass deportation of “Mexicans” that included American citizens, while the forties bore witness to the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial and the Zoot-suit riots, events deeply etched in the collective memory of the Mexican American community and later immortalized in Luis Valdez’s musical dramas and films.
The enthusiasm for Mexican culture may be traced in part to two phenomena: the presence in Mexico of an American intellectual who has only recently been “rediscovered” by the United States, Walter Pach; and the American cultural climate, which separated theory and practice.
Pach, a respected and well-established art historian, critic, and painter, served as a bridge between the School of Mexico artists—indeed, Mexican art in general—and North American art institutions. The American intelligentsia, moreover, savored both the social changes wrought by European upheavals in philosophy and aesthetics and the results of the socialist revolution in the Soviet Union. That what the intelligentsia learned from events in Europe could not always be applied to the deepest strata of American society is evident. Mexican art in the 1920s was avidly received while Mexican nationals in general were not—a contrast that suggests the difference in power between the cultural and the political establishment in the United States.
Walter Pach, according to William C. Agee, was “a catalyst, an advocate and spokesman for modern art and artists at a time when the modern movement was sorely in need of figures who could nurture it.” Born in New York to a well-to-do family of commercial photographers who did much of the work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he earned a degree in art at the City College of New York. After studying painting with Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase, he moved to France in 1907 and became part of Leo and Gertrude Stein’s circle. Pivotal in organizing the European portion of the 1913 Armory Show, he also became a lifelong friend and translator of the French art historian and critic Elie Faure; it was through him that Pach’s curiosity about Mexican art was stimulated.
More important for our purposes, Pach served as a link between New York and California, where interest in, and support for, the Mexican muralist movement and for Mexican art were greatest. He also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and corresponded with West Coast artists in Pasadena and Los Angeles.
Elie Faure’s article on Jean Chariot and “Mechanisme” set off the chain of events, documented in the correspondence between Faure and Pach, that culminated in Pach’s initial visit to Mexico in 1922, where he introduced Chariot to Diego Rivera. Faure had
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known Rivera in Paris and, upon learning Pach was to go to Mexico, advised him to seek out Rivera.
Pach had already been in contact with Mexican intellectuals. As early as 1918 he had been visited by the Mexican philosopher and diplomat Samuel Ramos. Moreover, a letter of appointment and invitation to teach at the National University of Mexico was extended by the then secretary of the university, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, one of the outstanding Latin American intellectuals of the period. Pach visited Mexico during the execution of the Ministry of Public Education murals, mostly by Diego Rivera, and became acquainted with the entire body of Mexican muralists and painters. During that visit he began relationships with Rivera, Orozco, and Chariot and, later, the art dealers Alberto Misrachi and Inés Amor as well as the philosophers and cultural essayists Octavio G. Barreda and Alfonso Reyes.
Following Pach’s 1922 visit, the Society of Independent Artists in New York, of which Pach was a founding member, along with Walter Arensberg and Marcel Duchamp, invited the “newly born” Society of Mexican Artists to show in New York. In a letter to Pach dated December 7, 1922, Diego Rivera thanked him in advance, outlined the spatial needs of the exhibition, and listed the names of the artists:
The group will consist—according to your wishes, we have made a list of thirteen names leaving two spaces (we are counting on fifteen spaces in terms of the 15 meters of wall that you’ve indicated) for the works by the children. [Apparently works by Mexican school children, most probably students of Ramos Martínez’s Open Air Schools, were to be included in the exhibition.] We have decided on the following: [He then draws a sketch.] We shall each have 80 centimeters so that in any case there can be 20 centimeters between each canvas. We will also use the wooden rods that you mentioned.
The artists will be=Orozco José
Ollin =Atl = Rivera.
This exhibition offered the Mexican artists an opportunity to show their work under the sponsorship of an established organization with connections to the European avant-garde. But it marked only the beginning of Pach’s advocacy of Mexican art. In 1924 Pach published an article in Harper’s “The Greatest American Masters,” on the pre-Hispanic art of Mexico. He defended Rivera, both in the Rockefeller debacle of the thirties (with articles in the New York Times and Harper’s ) and again when protests were launched against Rivera’s Detroit Institute of Arts murals. He wrote articles on Mexican art for Art in America and introduced American intellectuals to the literary magazines Hijo Pródigo and Cuadernos Americanos , to which he contributed articles. He was the first foreign critic to write on the nineteenth-century painter Hermenegildo Bustos, and in 1951 he published a book on Rivera.
Ben Berlin, Duck-Cannon-Firecrackers, 1936.
Paper and foil collage on board, 19 7/8 × 16
in. The Buck Collection, Laguna Hills, California.
Edward Hagedorn, The Crowd , n.d. Monoprint/
oil on paper, 11 × 15 in. Getty Center for the His-
tory of Art and the Humanities. © Denenberg
Fine Arts, Inc., San Francisco.
California Landscape , ca. 1919.
Oil on canvas, 30 × 22 1/8 in.
Columbus Museum of Art,
Ohio. Gift of Ferdinand Howald.
Peter Krasnow, K-1 ,
1944. Oil on board,
48 × 36 in. San Fran-
cisco Museum of Mo-
dern Art, gift of the
artist. Photograph by
Above: Hans Burkhardt, VE Day ,
1945. Oil on canvas, 42 × 52 in.
Photograph courtesy Jack Rutberg
Fine Arts, Los Angeles.
Right: Alfredo Ramos Martínez,
Vendedora de Frutas (Fruit Seller ),
1938. Tempera on newsprint, 21 ×
16 in. Mimi Rogers Collection, Los
Angeles, courtesy Louis Stern Galleries.
Opposite: Belle Baranceanu, The Yellow Robe ,
1927. Oil on canvas, 44 1/8 × 34 in. San Diego
Museum of Art, gift of the artist.
Helen Lundeberg, Plant and Animal Analogies ,
1934-35. Oil on celotex, 24 × 30 in. The Buck
Collection, Laguna Hills, California.
Edward Biberman, The Hollywood Palladium ,
ca. 1955. Oil on celotex on board, 36 × 48 in.
Private collection, Los Angeles. Photograph
© Douglas M. Parker Studio, Los Angeles,
courtesy Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles.
Charles Howard, The Progenitors ,
1947. Oil on canvas, 24 3/8 × 34½ in.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,
Mildred Anna Williams Collection.
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Pach and his wife spent the academic year 1942-43 in Mexico, where Pach lectured under the auspices of the Institute for International Education. While his reasons for leaving New York may have been partly financial, Pach was warmly received in Mexico. Shortly after his arrival, the artist Carlos Mérida broadcast a radio essay publicly welcoming him to Mexico and giving a synopsis of Pach’s article on Bustos. Letters to Pach from Jean Lipman of Art in America , John Strasser, and the painters John Sloan and Marcel Duchamp allude to his activity among the Mexican intelligentsia and artists. After returning to the United States, Pach delivered a lecture in Los Angeles, at the Earl Stendahl Galleries, on ancient and modern Mexican art.
In 1943, as Pach organized an exhibition of Rivera’s work, scheduled for February 1944, at the Arts Club of Chicago, a group—consisting of Inés Amor, director of the Galería de Artes Mexicanas; Francisco Orozco Muñoz, director of the National Museum; Eduardo Villaseñor, director of the Bank of Mexico; Diego Rivera; José Clemente Orozco; Alfonso Noriega, Jr., secretary of the National University; and Octavio G. Barreda, editor of the magazine Hijo Pródigo —addressed a letter, dated June 9, 1943, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ezequiel Padilla, asking that he name Walter Pach Mexico’s cultural representative in the United States. They cited both the urgent need for cultural representation in the United States, given that “the American Government (. . . seems to be interested in better relations and there are indications that they are ready to appropriate funding for this purpose),” and Pach’s reputation there. As “a native he could develop cultural propaganda without it being viewed as a paid assignment or as a foreign view; he could address his audience not as ‘you,’ but rather, as ‘we.’ ” They underscored Pach’s importance as a supporter of Mexican art in the United States:
Mr. Walter Pach, a famous painter, . . . author of nine books on art, as well as 200 articles, a student of the ancient art of Mexico for more than a quarter century, came to our National University by special invitation of Pedro Henríquez Urena. . . .
Upon his return to New York, he immediately organized a Mexican exhibition which for the first time, presented painters such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros and it must be said that it was he who successfully introduced our contemporary school of painting in the United States.
Unfortunately for both American and Mexican art, nothing came of this petition.
The Walter Pach papers contain Pach’s correspondence with Rivera, Orozco, and Charlot, among others. The letters Pach received from Mexico from 1922 to 1945 suggest the affection and respect the Mexican artists felt for him and show how he acted as an agent and cultural emissary for them. In the late forties the correspondence from Mexico diminished. After Pach’s death his writing and critical approach went out of fashion and he was largely forgotten.
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Pach’s activity as a patron and advocate of Mexican art in the United States demands further investigation, for his wide-ranging interests and correspondence offer tantalizing glimpses into the relationships between Mexican artists and the international art scene. He was, moreover, an independent emissary, a person involved with art and artists for their sake alone. Although he was a friend of the Rockefellers, he was not involved with the foundations or with those institutions whose interest in Mexican art usually developed because of a political or economic self-interest.
Finally, Pach’s bicoastal activities—his contacts with the California scene—indicate his awareness of the aesthetic differences between New York and the West Coast. As scholars explore the art scene in California during the twenties and thirties, it becomes increasingly evident from the lively gallery activity and the number of artists working in the state that art in Los Angeles was not dormant, or dull and provincial. Gallery spaces included the Biltmore Gallery, Barker Brothers, the Kanst Gallery, the Assistance League Gallery, the Friday Morning Club, the Ebell Club, Jake Zeitlin’s Gallery Bookstore, Stanley Rose’s Centaur Gallery, the Howard Putzel Gallery, the Frances Webb Gallery, and the Stendahl Galleries. In 1932 California Arts and Architecture magazine published a directory of California artists, craftsmen, designers, and art teachers.
A major contrast between the two coasts, however, and one that is still being assessed, involves the differences between the two areas as a result of California’s shared history with Mexico and her geographical proximity, both issues in the interest shown by local artists in things Mexican. During the twenties in particular, some of these artists traveled to Mexico on painting trips, and local exhibitions often featured the works that resulted.
But a contradiction remained between this appreciation of Mexico and its culture and the harsh reality of the discrimination against the Mexican population in California. Nonetheless, in 1923 Los Angeles was host to the first exhibition of Mexican art in the United States, a show organized by Xavier Guerrero, an artist who worked with Diego Rivera on the government-sponsored mural projects. Entitled The Arts and Crafts of Mexico , and sponsored by the Mexican government, the exhibition was held at the McDowell Club on Hill Street. It featured watercolors and drawings by Guerrero, Adolfo Best Maugard, and pupils of the art schools of Mexico. Originally it was to tour the United States, but because of problems with the United States Customs Office, it returned directly to Mexico from Los Angeles.
As a result of this exhibition, Guerrero first met Tina Modotti, who was then living in Los Angeles. Married to Roubaix de L’Abrie Richey, a French-Canadian poet, Modotti was performing minor roles in Hollywood films. Their studio was a center of bohemian life, frequented by the photographer Edward Weston, the writer Sadakichi Hartmann (who sometimes used the pseudonym Sidney Allan), and, in 1921, the Mexican archaeologist Ricardo Gómez Robledo. The relationship between Guerrero and Modotti was to flourish in Mexico after her separation from Edward Weston and during the time that she posed as a model for Rivera’s Chapingo murals.
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These glimpses into the connections of Mexican and California artists suggest the need for a broader view of art and social history. In 1925 the Los Angeles County Museum at Exposition Park inaugurated a new wing with the First Pan American Exhibition of Oil Paintings . Opening on November 2, it was scheduled to close on January 31, 1926, but was held over until the end of March because of its popularity. Eighteen thousand people visited it on the first Sunday it was open to the public. It presented 230 artists from the United States and Canada and 145 Latin Americans. The artists from the United States included Thomas Hart Benton, Conrad Buff, Mary Cassatt, Alson Clarke, Maynard Dixon, George Ennis, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, Guy Rose, John Sloan, and Ralph Stackpole. The twenty-nine Mexicans included Jean Chariot, Joaquín Clausell, Fernando Leal, Roberto Montenegro, Juan O’Gorman, and Diego Rivera.
Of the Latin Americans, the Mexicans were the most strongly represented, both in works displayed and in prizes awarded. The Los Angeles Museum Prize ($1,500) went to Diego Rivera for his painting Día de Flores (Fig. 44). The museum announcement says that “Sr. Rivera is a leader of a modern group in Mexico—’Syndicate of Painters.’ Walter Pach, the critic, calls him one of the greatest living artists.” The Earl Stendahl Prize for landscapes in the Latin American section was divided between Manuel Villareal (Mexico) and Manuel Cabré (Venezuela). The Bivouac Art Club of the Otis Art Institute Prize for portrait or figure painting in the Latin American section was shared by Luis Martínez (Mexico) and María Ramírez Bonfiglio (Mexico).
During the 1920s the painter, muralist, and sculptor Francisco Cornejo, a native Baja Californian who lived and worked in San Francisco in his “Aztec” Studio, and the sculptor Luis Ortiz Monasterio, the father of Mexican modernist sculpture, collaborated on a theatrical work, Xochiquetzal . Originally performed in San Francisco by the Denis-Shawn Company, the work was staged at the old Philharmonic Auditorium on the corner of Fifth and Hill Streets in 1925. Cornejo also executed one of the side stages of the Mayan Theatre, a landmark of downtown Los Angeles.
Six years later, after murals had been completed at Pomona and San Francisco (José Clemente Orozco’s Prometheus , 1930, and Diego Rivera’s Allegory of California , the Stern mural, and Construction , 1930-31), two more exhibitions of Mexican art were held in Los Angeles. The first, a city-sponsored show held in conjunction with the August 1931 Fiesta de Los Angeles, was housed in the Plaza Art Center (renovated by R. M. Schindler) on Olvera Street. Facilitated by the Delphic Studios and the Weyhe Galleries of New York, it was curated by E K. Ferenc, the center’s director, and Jorge Juan Crespo, who was then teaching art at the Chouinard Institute. The exhibition (135 works representing twenty-eight artists) included works by Cantú, Chariot, Clausell, Crespo, Pablo O’Higgins, Leal, Roberto Garcia Maroto, Siqueiros, Orozco, Mérida, Atl, Rivera, Julio Castellanos, Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, and five mural panels by Cueva del Río.
The second show was the Mexican arts show organized by the Rockefeller Founda-
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Diego Rivera, Día de Flores (Flower Day ), 1925. Oil on canvas, 58 × 47½ in.
Los Angeles Count)’ Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Fund.
― 129 ―
tion and former ambassador Dwight Morrow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1930-31. Opening October 4, 1931, in Los Angeles, it featured lectures by the curator, René d’Harnoncourt, and by Homer Saint-Gaudens of the Carnegie Foundation and received a generous review in the Los Angeles Times by Arthur Millier.
The final “legitimizing” event for Mexican art in 1931 was a lecture, “The Revolution in Art Today,” by the eminent French critic Elie Faure at the California Arts Club. In it, he recommended a new direction for American philanthropy:
Much as I love Spain, . . . I can call her conquest of the Aztecs nothing less than brutal. Yet, after the conquest, popular and individual expression of art arose in delightful and gracious forms which continue to the present day.
. . . I cannot understand why Americans who give millions for the restoration of Versailles, do not spend a few millions for the excavation of the . . . temples of Central America and for . . . museums which might be the greatest in the world. You have an obligation in that those Aztecs are your real ancestors, for people are related to the land the), live in rather than to their racial stocks.
But the visual presence of Mexican art went beyond exhibitions and lectures. It involved a continuity of influence through artists who taught, wrote, and created art in Los Angeles, introducing modernist aesthetics as well as fresco painting and muralism. It is difficult, however, to assess the importance of such figures as Jorge Juan Crespo, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Francisco Cornejo, and Jean Chariot in easel painting, muralism, and sculpture. Even the influence of more famous artists, such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, has only partially been studied.
Painter, muralist, and art writer Jorge Juan Crespo taught at Chouinard from 1930 to 1938 with, in 1931, Richard Neutra and Hans Hofmann. Also in 1931 he curated the exhibition of Mexican art at the Olvera Street Gallery and executed for the Sons of Italy Hall a series of murals that disappeared before they could be documented. His writings on emerging European modernists in such catalogues as those produced by the Earl Stendahl Galleries reveal another aspect of the Mexican influence. Most Mexican artists had lived or studied in Europe before coming to Los Angeles. Thus they provided for the West Coast an alternative view of modern art, one that differed from that of the Atlantic seaboard.
Two important figures, Alfredo Ramos Martínez and Jean Chariot, had played major roles in the Mexican visual renaissance before moving to Los Angeles in 1930. Ramos Marténez had studied, lived, and worked in Paris before returning to Mexico in 1910. The Open Air Painting Schools he founded, based on the Barbizon School principle, were probably the single most important influence on the School of Mexican Painting, for through them the study of art became available to everyone. Indeed, one of Ramos’s first pupils at the school, established in 1913, was David Alfaro Siqueiros, who never forgot the debt he owed this master. Ramos also served as director of the
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National Academy of Fine Arts. He first visited Los Angeles in 1925, when he accompanied an international exhibition of works from his schools to the First Pan American Exhibition. There he met William Alanson Bryan, then the director of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Arts; when he returned in 1930, it was Bryan who facilitated his first exhibition.
Upon arriving in Mexico from France in 1922, Jean Chariot, who had studied painting and lithography in his native country, was invited to begin a woodblock workshop at one of the Open Air Painting Schools in Chimalistac, a suburb of Mexico City. There he introduced his technique, which he had acquired from the German expressionists. In doing so, he gave new impetus to the Mexican graphic movement, which had begun with José Guadalupe Posada at the beginning of the century. He worked with Rivera on the murals at the Ministry of Education, but as Rivera became the dominant muralist, Chariot and others turned to other fields of activity
The sense of nationalism that pervaded Mexican painting by the mid-twenties may have motivated Chariot to come to the United States. It may have influenced Ramos as well, for José Clemente Orozco had criticized both the Open Air Painting Schools (because they were based on a European model) and Ramos himself. But the condition of his infant daughter may also have brought Ramos to the United States, for he had been advised that the regions dry climate was most suitable for the child. He arrived in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter in 1930, settled down, and began to work.
What is astonishing about Ramos’s subsequent work is the shift in subject matter and technique. By experimenting with space and volume and exploring themes that had never before surfaced in his work, Ramos became a major exponent of the School of Mexico (see Plate 6). Even more intriguing is his acceptance by the art community in Los Angeles even as his contributions to the history of art in Mexico were being forgotten; they have only recently been reaffirmed. His first solo exhibition, at the Assistance League Gallery, featured works in the style that was to become associated with his name in California. They are characterized by a strong linear composition and reveal his preference for a palette rich in ochers and brownish tones in his portraits, in contrast with that of the flowers he sometimes included in his portraits and in his still lifes.
By 1933 Ramos had been commissioned to paint a mural at the home of the Hollywood screenwriter Jo Swerling. The year before, David Alfaro Siqueiros, at the invitation of Nelbert Chouinard, had come to Los Angeles to conduct mural workshops, and Ramos had taken him to meet E K. Ferenc, the director of the Olvera Street Gallery. That meeting led to Siqueiros’s commission to paint the notorious mural Tropical America , but beyond that, it brought both painters in contact with a group of Hollywood intellectuals, including Swerling, Dudley Murphy, and John Huston, who supported their work and, in Siqueiros’s case, his philosophy of using art for social change and revolution. The Swerling mural attracted other patrons, including Corinne Griffith, Edith Head, Alfred Hitchcock, and Beulah Bondi. In 1934 Ramos executed a set of murals for the Santa Barbara Cemetery commissioned by Mrs. George Washington
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Figures 45 – 47
This page and next: Alfredo Ramos Martínez working oil the mural
in the Margaret Fowler Garden at Scripps College, 1946. Photographs
by Max Yavno. Courtesy Millard Sheets Estate, lent by Paul Bockhorst.
Smith, the widow of the famous architect, and the violinist and composer Henry Eichman; and in 1936, he painted a mural for the oratory of the Chapman Park Hotel (now destroyed).
A quiet man, Ramos was befriended by his peers, who admired him. Hugo Ballin introduced Ramos at his exhibition in the Santa Monica Library in 1933, and one of the first artists to visit him upon his arrival in Los Angeles was Leo Katz. But the most important of Ramos’s artist friends was Millard Sheets, with whom he had a lifelong friendship. It was Sheets who arranged the commission for the Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden mural at Scripps College in Claremont (Figs. 45-47). Ramos completed it shortly before his death.
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Charlot’s stay in Los Angeles was much briefer than Ramos’s, but during the years he was there, 1930-38, he worked steadily with the lithographer Lynton Kistler in his Culver City Studio (Fig. 48). In 1936 Charlot and Kistler presented an exhibition of prints at the Santa Barbara Library, showing works by Paul Landacre, Dan Lutz, Phil Paradise, Millard Sheets, and Henrietta Shore. The affection and esteem for Chariot in Los Angeles is evidenced by the farewell dinner arranged for him at Taix Restaurant, attended by the artists Lucille Lloyd, Sheets, Conrad Buff, Beatrice Wood, Alson Clarke, Paul Sample, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, and Kistler; the art writers and critics Rob Wagner, Harry Muir Kurzworth, and Arthur Millier; the gallery directors and owners Jake Zeitlin, William Alanson Bryan, and Dalzell Hatfield; and the collectors and patrons Jean Hersholt, Josef yon Sternberg, and William Preston Harrison.
In his conception of both art and the aesthetic experience Jean Chariot foreshadowed contemporary aesthetics; he posited a historical continuity that originated with the pre-Columbian aesthetic. During his years in Mexico, he traveled extensively to the Yucatán, and his incorporation of Mayan concepts of minimalism and monumentality is apparent in his graphic line (Fig. 49)- He explored these same ideas in his writings. and his book The History of Art from the Mayas to Walt Disney is an early attempt to incorporate non-Western and popular art forms into mainstream art history. A vigorous, energetic, and imaginative man, he eventually moved to Hawaii; he taught at the university there before his death in 1979.
David Alfaro Siqueiros executed three murals in the city that exemplified his aesthetic objective: to use art for social and political purposes. The most controversial. Tropical America , treated contemporary Latin American political life and denounced North American imperialism. Of all the controversies over works of art in California during the thirties, the one over this mural left the most lasting impression. The mural itself was whitewashed in 1934 and then covered over because the owner of the Sons of Italy Hall, the building on which it was painted, thought it “ugly.” When it became a
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Above: Jean Chariot (left ) and Lynton Kistler in Kistler’s studio,
1950. Photograph courtesy Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles.
Jean Charlot, Luz , from Pictwe Book No. 1 , Plate 9, 1932-33.
Color offset lithograph, 8 × 6 in. Photograph courtesy
Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles.
― 134 ―
rallying point for the Chicano-Latino artists and community, efforts were made to preserve it, and it is now being restored.
Siqueiros’s influence (as well as that of Orozco, Rivera, and Ramos Martínez) on the Los Angeles muralists, particularly Leo Katz, Boris Deutsch, Lucille Lloyd, Fletcher Martin, and Hugo Ballin, is undeniable. Murals executed by Katz (particularly the controversial Los Angeles Trade Technical School mural) include the socio-political themes common in the work of the Mexican muralists; Ballin’s Los Angeles Times murals and those he painted for the old Department of Water and Power Building at 511 West Fifth Street reveal a careful analysis of Rivera’s Detroit Institute of Arts frescoes in their linear construction and spatial composition as well as in the theme of workers in a new industrial age. Lucille Lloyd’s Origin and Development of the Name of the State of California reveals similar modernist thematic and stylistic influences.
Siqueiros’s political orientation gave impetus to the socio-political polemics that flourished in the Los Angeles art community around 1936, when there were sharp divisions between the Internationalists, who opposed the fascist threat in Europe, and the “American” artists, who were essentially isolationists. Passions were fueled by Siqueiros’s workshops and by his 1934 lecture at the John Reed Club as well as by discussions at the 1936 American Artists Congress in New York. The “American” group, supported by the Stendahl Galleries, was led by Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg; the Internationalists, sponsored by the Stanley Rose Gallery, included Leo Katz, Edward Biberman, and Knud Merrild.
During the 1920s and 1930s the Mexican artists were never marginalized or ignored in Los Angeles. Instead, they contributed in a meaningful way to the vibrant local culture and shared a commitment to developing an aesthetics suited to the time. Influential as they were, however, they were themselves influenced by the Los Angeles aesthetic and cultural ambience—Ramos Martínez, in particular. He made an extraordinary shift in his conception of space and volume in his paintings in response to the works of the sculptor George Stanley (for example, the monumental Griffith Park Astronomers and the modernist-style Oscar statuette).
The last important Mexican exhibition of the twenties and thirties in Los Angeles was The Indefinite Period (1942), a traveling show organized by McKinley Helms at the Institute of Modern Art in Boston. In it were works by Rufino Tamayo, Antonio Ruiz, Carlos Orozco Romero, Dr. Atl, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Jesús Guerrero Galván, Federico Cantú, and Guillermo Meza, some of whom (Izquierdo, Meza) were exhibiting for the first time in Southern California.
The next exhibition was not until 1953. The migrants who came from the Midwest and the East Coast during the war years looking for work in the growing aircraft industry created a different climate, in which things Mexican were viewed with suspicion Incidents such as the Zoot-suit riots and the Sleepy Lagoon murder case helped to eradicate the goodwill established during two decades of cross-cultural influences. The focus of American art, and thus American art history, shifted eastward. As it did, the Mexican artists and their work faded from memory, and an important part of Southerr California’s cultural history was almost forgotten.
DOCUMENT of Lies and Distortion#1—Is this fascist history or what????
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The document stated:
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What did Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower have in common?
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