Mexican Street Art: what you should know
You have planned a trip to Mexico, and you would like to see the most beautiful works of street art? Would you like to know the history of Mexican street art?
Street art in Mexico has become highly popular in the last few years. Mexico has never been a stranger to traditional graffiti, as the ancient Aztecs and Mayans had covered their temple with colorful and beautiful artistry. In 1920 the popularity of muralism in Mexico was at its peak, and the city has never turned its back since, thus embracing wall art all over it.
However, currently, the street art of Mexico is facing a minor renaissance but gaining popularity with the help of social media. Tourists arriving in Mexico have a single favorite thing to do: explore the streets, the beautiful graffiti imagery and the murals.
In this article, we will take you through all the information you need to know regarding Mexican street art and the famous spots where they can be found. So, when you plan your next trip to Mexico, you know exactly where to go to admire the gorgeous wall artistry!
I) History of Muralism
Mexican street art has been made famous by three of the most studied muralists, Jose Orozco, David Siqueiros, and Deigo Rivera. After the Mexican Revolution, the murals were commissioned by the government to display a political message on the buildings. The reason behind doing this was that most of the Mexican population was illiterate, so the political parties needed a unique way to deliver their message. The themes of most murals found in Mexico were related to nationalism, history, and politics.
However, over time, the majority of the street artists began to reject the idea of the government displaying political wall art and started painting their own personal values and imaginations. Therefore, currently, Mexican murals cover a vast range of themes instead of just politics and religion.
Furthermore, Mexican street art has revolutionized itself by displaying the art on public platforms to be enjoyed by the masses. It arose from the art market becoming readily available for everyone instead of being reserved only for the elite class. Because of this revolution, muralists have found a much larger platform to display their art and imagery.
Hence, this unique history of muralism is what makes the Mexican movement different from moments across the world, making the Mexican population more welcoming to new ideas and values than the rest of the world. The people here do not think of graffiti as invasive until it is beautiful, attractive, and gives off an argument. The police even do not mind artists painting the walls, as long as they have permission from the property owners.
II) Street Art In Mexico: where is it found?
Now that you have understood where Mexican street art comes from, let us read about some of the best spots where it is found.
1) Mexico City
No other city has seen the surge of murals as Mexico City. In the beginning, murals were noticed popping up on the walls in underdeveloped areas on the city's outskirts. Gradually, the art was noticeable in more posh areas like La Condesa, and La Roma, until now, where the art is seen everywhere in every corner of the city.
The city now has an art collection like the Street Art Chilango to promote the art on much higher levels. You can also book art tours in the downtown area. However, if you do not want to join a tour group, you can always visit their website to view the map, showing all the wall art spots around the city.
After Mexico City, you can view street art in the second-biggest city in Mexico, Guadalajara. The Americana neighborhood is an excellent place to find wall art in abundance.
You can find almost every building painted with beautiful and bright colors in the city of Guanajuato. Therefore, street art is relatively more minor here as compared to the cities mentioned above. However, you can still find some gorgeous murals here and there if you wander around the neighborhood.
4) Puerto Vallarta
This city has the most beautiful murals scattered here and there throughout the streets. You can also find street art from the famous Restorcoral movement, which was started to raise awareness for the coral reef destruction happening in Mexico and other parts of the world. You can also check their social media to stay updated about the latest murals. The majority of the wall imagery here in Puerto Vallarta is meant to raise awareness of the destruction of marine life occurring globally.
III) Famous muralists of Mexico
No one will be able to talk about Mexican street art without mentioning the three great key muralists, as discussed above -Jose Clemente Orozco, Deigo Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Popularly known as Los Tres Grandes, these three muralists were incredibly passionate, patriotic, innovative, and daring about their work. They continued the legacy of the famous Jose Vasconcelos, who used art to express a social and Cultural Revolution.
All three artists graduated from a highly prestigious San Carlos Academy, thus getting inspired by the modernist painting style. The three artists were greatly inspired by each other, and the two Jose and David even worked together throughout the Mexican Revolution. Their colorful graffiti steet arts throughout the country result from their collective thoughts and work still remembered and admired today.
1) Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera is the most famous muralist between the three great artists and the most traditional one. He successfully incorporated European modernism in his work, which he later toned down to recreate the flair of indigenous street art. Diego added elements of cubism in his work while displaying the bright colors and paying tribute to all labor in high respect through his murals.
He also depicted his people as glorious and noble through his paintings, thus saluting the heritage and history of the country. Today, Diego's work is admired locally and internationally because of the extraordinary visuals his artwork has to offer, showing off Mexico's honesty, culture, and diversity.
2) David Alfaro Siqueiros
He was the youngest of the three artists, yet the most radical and innovative one. He popularized many different painting techniques, like using Duso, an automobile, transparent paint, and pyroxene, a commercial coating. He was also among the first painters who used resins, acrylics, and asbestos.
Being a fan of the abstract, Siqueiros incorporated unusual combinations in his art like science, machinery, and technology while holding on to delivering a positive message to his people. His art offered progress and speed but was not much appreciated by the political authorities in Mexico and the US. This is why most of his murals are found in South America and nowhere else.
3) Jose Clemente Orozco
Greatly inspired by the expressionism of Europe, Jose Orozco was the direst artist out of the three. Through his paintings, he used to express human cruelty and suffering in the manner of being a dark prophet. He exposed the horrors of the Mexican Revolution clearly through his murals. He was no idealist, as he portrayed that not everything in Mexico is pretty and cheerful.
This has led him to suffer from significant criticism throughout his journey. His murals were often treated to be removed or whitewashed by the government for being too straightforward and realistic. The artist was also proclaimed as being "mentally sick" by several art critics. Orozco also expressed the fear of ever-growing humans' dependence on technology taking over the world in the future.
IV) The influence and the legacy behind Mexican street imagery
Mexican muralism movement is one of the most prominent art movements in the history of art, bringing street art back as a widespread and respected art form in the world, which conveys a strong social message. Not only in Mexico, but the mural ideals are also found throughout America, like in Brazil, Guatemala, and Ecuador. However, the greatest influence of mural art is seen in the US, where you can find many Mexican muralists spending time and painting seminal art inspired by the Los Tres Grandes.
Jose Orozco was the first muralist to paint murals at the Pomona College in California, San Francisco, and New York. Diego Rivera's pieces can be found in Detroit, while Siqueiros's most famous paintings can still be seen on the walls of Los Angeles. In short, it would not be wrong if we say that Mexican street art opened many doors for the muralists and graffiti artists today. In fact, in South America and other parts, public art is considered a form of artistic expression that should be free of any limitations or restrictions.
V) Women are becoming the spotlight of modern muralism in Mexico
Today, tourists visiting Mexico are often surprised to see murals done by women or paintings paying tribute to women. It is not clear if the art movement displaying different social messages played its role in women's freedom. Still, it is pretty clear that females are now enjoying an excellent representation on the walls of Mexico in the form of modern street art. A good example of this is a painting by a woman artist Cristina Maya, expressing a strong message "Mujer bonita es la la lucha" in her murals, meaning "pretty women are those who fight for themselves."
Many murals are done to pay homage to a unique woman artist, Dona Rosa Real Di Nieto, who was also a ceramist famous for her extraordinary technique of making black clay shine. This honor painting was done by Maldita Carmen, who was a street illustrator, along with a renowned Mexican street artist, Vlocke Negro.
VI) The sponsored street art in Mexico
To your astonishment, you will find many sponsored murals throughout Mexico. For example, in the post neighborhood of Polanco, there is a huge mural and other street artworks sponsored by the very famous Converse brand! Throughout the country, you will notice little bits and pieces of the brand's colors in the form of street art. What a brilliant way of publicity! Isn't it? However, these frescoes were the result of a competition held by HidroARTE.
It was an event where new artists from Mexico and other countries participated to highlight current environmental issues and consciousness through their artistic representations. Therefore, this contest was actually sponsored by Comex, the City of Mexico, and the one and only Converse. The event had six editions and has produced more than 700 murals throughout the country.
VII) Off-track, but is Mexico safe to discover street art?
Well, talking from personal experiences with the tourists- they often tell us that it is great to watch the street art while traveling in a car or a taxi in Mexico. But the driver would not just let you get down. For example, it is not safe to get down and watch the murals in a few sensitive areas because the sensitive Mexican language is a significant issue. Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry.
VIII) Is Mexico undoubtedly the best place to discover muralism?
Honestly speaking, the whole country, especially Mexico City, is filled with graffiti and street art. We only highlighted little glimpses of what you can find publically. We also know that you might be wondering where to discover those more prominent names and artworks, so let us tell you that they are also present in the city but are not as easy to access as the public ones. Mexico City, out of all, is a place where you can find urban art the most, which is deeply rooted in Mexican traditions.
It is no fun to walk around searching for street imagery in Mexico. Therefore, we recommend taking a ride in Condesa and Roma Norte to discover some of the best street artworks, with the help of hiring a tour guide from an agency. They will help take you to the exact spots where you can discover the murals while being light on pockets.
As you can see now, street art in Mexico is definitely worth watching, as it displays color and beauty all over the country. Didn't we just give you another great reason to visit amazing Mexico? Of course, we did!
By the way, if you are a fan of wall art and want to hang beautiful canvases on your walls, feel free to visit our dedicated website.
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See you soon.
Splash of Arts Team.