Miriam Oesterreich: Artistic Indigenism in Mexico

Museo Anahuacalli, Mexico City. Architect: Juan O'Gorman, Diego Rivera. Built 1944-63. Source: Lepik, Andres; Bader, Vera Simone (ed.): Lina Bo Bardi 100. Exh. cat. Architekturmuseum of the TU München in Pinakothek der Moderne, November 13th, 2014 - February 22nd, 2015. Ostfildern Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2014, p. 163. Taken from Digitales Bildarchiv Prometheus: http://prometheus.uni-koeln.de/pandora/image/show/artemis-2385981ae0c108af8c9bc3dfe6a4c1895ecd9356, 16.05.2016.

Museo Anahuacalli, Mexico City. Architect: Juan O’Gorman, Diego Rivera. Built 1944-63. Source: Lepik, Andres; Bader, Vera Simone (ed.): Lina Bo Bardi 100. Exh. cat. Architekturmuseum of the TU München in Pinakothek der Moderne, November 13th, 2014 – February 22nd, 2015. Ostfildern Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2014, p. 163. Taken from Digitales Bildarchiv Prometheus: http://prometheus.uni-koeln.de/pandora/image/show/artemis-2385981ae0c108af8c9bc3dfe6a4c1895ecd9356, 16.05.2016.

Artistic Indigenism in Mexico

The artistic Mexican avant-garde (ca. 1920-1950) considered the Mexican-indigenous a fresh resource apt for the establishment of an individual masterly status, of a unique artistic selling point, as well as for staging a modernistic discourse beyond national frontiers—the latter especially to define an own national art style. Avant-garde artists referred to the allegedly own indigineous heritage by means of indigenism—the idealizing recourse to indigenous traditions, the artistic use of indigenous handcrafts and the simultaneous indifference towards contemporary indigenous artistic currents and life situations; thus creating a specifically Mexican discourse on modernism. However, this attribution of artistic modernness can be read as a result of diverse global and historically extensive exchange processes. A lot of Mexican artists just had returned from Europe or the US and used their experiences of international conceptions of modernity in their Latin American-based oeuvre. Also in Mexico itself the artistic milieu was entangled with international trends. Mexico at the time represented a preferred travel destination, emigration and exile country for Western avant-garde. Hence, the project analyses these complex linkages of diverse conceptions of modernity in Mexican indigenism.

Miriam Oesterreich, MA, studied Art History, Spanish Literature and Ancient American Cultures in Heidelberg, Havanna (Cuba), Valencia (Spain) and at the Freie Universität Berlin. She just finished her PhD on historical advertising pictures dealing with ‘exotic’ bodies (summa cum laude; supervised by Prof. Werner Busch and Prof. Karin Gludovatz, Freie Universität Berlin). As she specialized on Latin American topics, she completed her studies with a Magister thesis on the Mexican painter and muralist Raúl Anguiano and his treatment of indigenous subjects in the 1950s. She was research assistant in Transcultural Studies at the University of Heidelberg (2008‐2011) and worked in the Wilhelm-Hack‐Museum (Ludwigshafen a. Rh.) where she initialized and curated the show DoubleVision with the artist Rajkamal Kahlon. She works in the department of Fashion and Aesthetics with Prof. Alexandra Karentzos as a research assistant at the Technische Universität Darmstadt.


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