The Daily Heller: Mexican Graphics, Original and Derivative

Posted inThe Daily Heller

On my first and only pilgrimage to Mexico, made in the early ’80s to witness the burgeoning protest movement, I toured the hot spots of popular and polemical art.

I was blown away by the use of primary and secondary colors in the ultra-Modernist home and studio of Diego Rivera; the grand hacienda of Freida Kahlo; even the walled fortress of Leon Trotsky. Mexico City was filled with surreal and socially symbolic art in abundance. Coming by chance across a richly endowed exhibition of Miguel Covarraubias‘ original drawings at a museum near Chapultepec Park was the highlight of my trip. Then in Oaxaca, my joy from seeing all the Day of the Dead souvenirs (thousands of miniature skeletons that filled the streets with color and comedy), complemented by contemporary protest posters calling for equal rights and justice—evidence that design played a huge role in Mexican culture.

This past COVID year I was invited to write a foreword for the generously illustrated MEXICO: The Land of Charm (RM Publisher), with text by Mercurio López Casillas and James Oles. The book contains all the wonderful ephemeral artifacts that I was unable to locate on my own journey. The work proves that Mexico is a world capital of graphic exuberance—from vernacular to avant garde to Aztec-inspired art deco—and the book is an invaluable addition to the growing study of Latin American graphic design.