Mayanizing Modernity



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This thesis analyzes the cultural and political events of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Mexico that led to the Mayanization of Indigenous subjects in modern Mexican art. Situated in post-1910 Revolutionary Mexico, artists selectively chose specific motifs from ancient Maya works and applied them to modern indigenous subjects as a way create a heterogenous Mexican national identity. This thesis examines the role of the Academy of San Carlos and the Porfiriato in the shaping of both a national art form and national identity for Mexico. The issues of race, gender, and their intersectionality are central to this thesis because artists and thinkers primarily looked to the Indigenous woman to fulfill the role of Mexican national identity. Additionally, there was a tension between governmental action that condemned modern indigenous populations while at the same time utilized Mexican indigenous heritage, primarily through Aztec history, to distinguish the nation’s history from those of Western countries. What is incredibly unique about the artistic representation of indigenous subjects is that many artist appropriate motifs from the ancient Maya while the majority of government sponsored events focused on the Aztec. The styles of these Mesoamerican civilizations are incredibly different. Many contemporary scholars have concentrated on the influence of Aztec works and history on modern Mexican art and minimized the role of Maya motifs. This thesis looks at the work of Mexican artists Roberto Montenegro, Lola Cueto, Diego Rivera, and Aurora Reyes Flores, in an attempt to highlight the abundant use of specific Maya motifs which reflected the early-twentieth century search of Mexican national identity through the construction of a cohesive Mexican artistic style.



Mexico, 1910 Revolution, Maya, Aztec, Modern Art, Modern Mexican Art, Roberto Montenegro, Lola Cueto, Diego Rivera, Aurora Reyes Flores, Jose Vasconcelos, Manuel Gamio, Mexican Muralism, Folk Art