Mexican art and revolution, exhibition

This video from the USA says about itself:

21 October 2016

Paint the Revolution at the Philadelphia Museum of Art explores the political and social unrest in Mexico over four decades from 1910-1950 during several presidents and its uprising. Featured masterpieces by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo are beautifully displayed alongside mixed media installations.

By Gary Alvernia:

Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910–1950—a significant exhibition

28 April 2017

Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950 presented at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia October 25, 2016 to January 8, 2017 and currently at the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City until May 7, 2017.

The product of a major collaboration between the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMoA) and Mexico’s Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), “Paint the Revolution” was the first exhibit in nearly seven decades to present an extensive selection of 20th century Mexican art in the United States.

Encompassing the start of the Mexican Revolution through to just after the end of World War II, the exhibition includes and prominently displays the works of the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera (1886–1957), Jose Clemente Orozco (1883–1949), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1977), along with Rivera’s wife and artistic collaborator, Frida Kahlo (1907–1954). It also features a number of lesser-known muralists and painters, as well as photographers Tina Modotti (1896–1942) and Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902–2002).

PMoA’s aim in staging “Paint the Revolution,” it said, was to provide “a deep look at the forces that shaped modern art in Mexico, the progress of which was closely watched around the world.” The exhibit reveals the changes that occurred in Mexican artwork, in style and format but also content, during this period. Though primarily depicting the artistic impact of the Mexican Revolution (c. 1910–1921), other crucial historical events—the two World Wars, Great Depression, industrialization of Mexico and the Russian Revolution—are also considered.

PMoA made great efforts to bring together a number of previously unseen and otherwise inaccessible artworks. One noteworthy element involved the use of large-screen panels and projectors to digitally render in high resolution some of the enormous frescoes by Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros, which could not be moved physically from their current locations.

“Paint the Revolution” is arranged in a chronological and categorical format with various pieces placed according to different themes—the Mexican Revolution, Urbanization, Mexican Culture, etc.—and then presented sequentially by date of completion, allowing the audience to see the evolution of Mexican artwork over the time period in question.

From the outset, the exhibit explains how a number of Mexican artists, at the turn of the 20th century, began to look to their own country for inspiration and strove to create a national aesthetic style, which they referred to as Mexicanidad. While many trained in Europe, these artists eschewed classical subject matter and increasingly took an interest in the culture and daily lives of peasants and workers. Initially taking the form of romantic portrayals of rural life and landscapes, artistic work became increasingly realistic, with an emphasis on urban life, industrialization and political struggle, under the impact of the politically charged climate during and after the Mexican Revolution.

Taking place from 1910–1921, the revolution was a period of struggle and armed insurrection by the country’s peasantry and working class against the big landowners, represented by the anti-democratic regime of Porfirio Diaz. Suffering under brutally exploitative conditions, driven by the Mexican elite’s subservience to foreign investment from the United States and Europe, the impoverished and increasingly landless peasants formed great armies under the leadership of Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and Emiliano Zapata, while the workers launched massive general strikes that crippled Mexico’s economy (for a full description see here).

Despite overthrowing Diaz and the enormous levels of determination and self-sacrifice shown by the masses, the lack of revolutionary leadership resulted in defeat. The liberal bourgeoisie, initially allied with Villa and Zapata, betrayed the masses, and led by Alvaro Obregon, brutally crushed the rebellions. The result was the murder of hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants and the preservation of bourgeois rule.

For substantial layers of the Mexican intelligentsia the conflict served to heighten their political sensitivity and consciousness. Lacking much of the idyllic romanticism of the pre-revolutionary era, paintings like Hanged and Disembodied Men (1915), by Francisco Goitia, which depicts long-decayed corpses hung on trees, effectively conveyed the nature of war. In a simple but effective manner, Goitia, who became a “cultural attaché” to Villa’s army and witnessed its eventual defeat, exposes the human toll of war and the indifference of such catastrophes to the fate of its victims, a true accounting of warfare.
Hanged and Disembodied Men, by Francisco Goita (1915)

World War I and revolutionary aspirations generated by the 1917 Russian Revolution and establishment of the first workers’ state also contributed greatly to this artistic development. After Alvaro Obregon became Mexican president following the revolution, he announced a program of state-sponsored murals, providing a platform for the increasingly combative and politicized artistic community. Championed by Jose Vasconcelos, Obregon’s secretary for education, the internationally influential Mexican mural movement found its genesis in this program. The exhibition, however, does not refer to Vasconcelos, an active participant in the Mexican Revolution and one strongly affected by the concepts that inspired Mexicanidad.

While intended mainly to foster a sense of national identity, murals were seen by many artists as an opportunity to communicate directly with the working class and raise their revolutionary consciousness, a goal undoubtedly inspired by the October Revolution and the development of art in the Soviet Union in the years immediately following its creation. Indeed, many Mexican artists would visit the USSR and become members of the Mexican Communist Party. Diego Rivera … , in particular, developed a close friendship and collaboration with Leon Trotsky, co-leader of the Bolshevik Party. Their political relationship is not alluded to in the exhibit.

Liberation of the Peon, by Diego Rivera (1931)

The radicalization of Mexican artists led to the creation of powerful and engaging works that expressed the faith of the artistic community in the revolution of the masses. One moving example is expressed in Rivera’s fresco Liberation of the Peon (1931) which depicts the freeing of a tortured and badly beaten indentured laborer (who were often indigenous peoples) on a plantation by revolutionary soldiers.

An additional impact of the October Revolution was that it encouraged Mexican artists to adopt an international outlook. Unsurprisingly many directed a critical eye towards the imperialist oppressors of Mexico, particularly the United States. The museum presents the paintings of Rivera, Kahlo and Orozco, all of whom came away from their visits to the US with critical and insightful views of America in the Great Depression.

My Dress Hangs There by Frida Kahlo (1933)

Kahlo was scathing in her criticism of American society, an attitude seen in her work My Dress Hangs There which mocked the superficiality of American capitalism and its narrow obsession with possessions and self-promotion (demonstrated by the placing of the indoor toilet and a bronze trophy on equal pedestals).

Orozco’s The Epic of American Civilization effectively condenses millennia of human settlement in the New World into one enormous 24-panel panoramic mural, which was presented digitally at the exhibit. Considering the broad subject at hand, this reviewer was struck both by the sweeping ambition of the project and the range of emotion and feeling embodied in each panel. Defiance, hope, and despair emanate from the piece, and the immense scope driving Mexican modernism expresses itself with a power rarely reached in artwork. It is impossible to miss the connection between political outlook and artistic criticism here.

A section of The Epic of American Civilization (1932-34) by Jose Clemente Orozco

The presentation to American audiences of some of the great works of art created in early 20th century Mexico is a commendable undertaking. The PMoA exhibit emphasized the politically critical and in some cases anti-capitalist nature of the art works and artists themselves, drawing a connection between the content of the art and historical events of that era. Efforts were also made to highlight the contributions that Mexican artists made to artistic and cultural developments internationally.

A number of tour guides commented that some of the works acted as a counter to the xenophobic campaign directed against Mexicans by the US government and media. Additionally, in listening to the conversations between various audience members, one could hear many discussing the oppositional nature of the artwork and the present situation in the United States, particularly in regards to the rise of Donald Trump. Others commented that the situation leading to the Mexican Revolution paralleled the enormous wealth inequalities and repression facing American workers today. While these sentiments reflect an important strength of “Paint the Revolution” which bring to wider attention a number of politically charged and relevant artworks, the show has its weaknesses.

The exhibit attempts to reveal the relationship between historical events and the development of socially conscious artwork, but there is a lack of analysis of that very history. The political activities and trajectories of the artists, so crucial to understanding their work, are only given a cursory review. We are told that Mexico produced artists with an anti-capitalist outlook, but nothing further. The Mexican Revolution is described as a conflict by the impoverished masses against the rich but with little detail provided about the event itself or the class forces involved. While an artistic exhibit will necessarily be limited in how much history and politics it can present, these omissions weaken the context of the material presented.

Rivera working on the Man at the Crossroads mural in the Rockefeller Center

Birdwatching Big Day, 13 May

This 12 April 2017 video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA says about itself:

Big Day – Chris Wood

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology writes about it:

Support the Sapsuckers’ birding marathon for conservation

On May 13, 2017, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s birding Dream Team, the Sapsuckers, will reach for an audacious goal: finding 300 bird species in just 24 hours – and raising $475,000. Can they do it?!

This year, for Big Day, they will be heading to the Yucatán Peninsula, one of the world’s most stunning and important areas for birds.

In order to cover the phenomenal bird diversity there, they will be dividing into three teams for the first time ever: Team Belize, Team Guatemala, and Team Mexico. All three teams will be joining forces in a quest to find the most bird species and raise $475,000 for conservation.

Will you help Team Belize, Team Guatemala, and Team Mexico by pledging for every bird species they find?

After Big Day, we’ll share with you the results of Team Sapsucker’s efforts and ask you to fulfill your pledged gift. For example, if you pledge $0.25 today and Team Sapsucker meets their goal of finding 300 bird species, you will receive an email to fulfill your pledge of $75.

Our thanks for your support:

For gifts and pledges over $100 you’ll receive a coffee mug featuring the Cedar Waxwing by Ann-Kathrin Wirth, a Bartels Science Illustration Intern.

If you prefer to make a donation now rather than pledge per species please click here.

Ancient Mexican palace discovery

This video about archaeology in Mexico is called Palenque (New Documentary 2014).

From Science News:

Palace remains in Mexico point to ancient rise of centralized power

Ruler ruled, lived in, maybe even performed ritual sacrifices in 2,300-year-old structure

By Bruce Bower

3:10pm, March 27, 2017

Remnants of a royal palace in southern Mexico, dating to between around 2,300 and 2,100 years ago, come from what must have been one of the Americas’ earliest large, centralized governments, researchers say.

Excavations completed in 2014 at El Palenque uncovered a palace with separate areas where a ruler conducted affairs of state and lived with his family, say archaeologists Elsa Redmond and Charles Spencer, both of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Only a ruler of a bureaucratic state could have directed construction of this all-purpose seat of power, the investigators conclude the week of March 27 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The royal palace, the oldest such structure in the Valley of Oaxaca, covered as many as 2,790 square meters, roughly half the floor area of the White House. A central staircase connected to an inner courtyard that probably served as a place for the ruler and his advisors to reach decisions, hold feasts and — based on human skull fragments found there — perform ritual sacrifices, the scientists suggest. A system of paved surfaces, drains and other features for collecting rainwater runs throughout the palace, a sign that the entire royal structure was built according to a design, the researchers say.

El Palenque’s palace contains no tombs. Its ancient ruler was probably buried off-site, at a ritually significant location, Redmond and Spencer say.

Mexican-American students about the border

This video from the USA says about itself:

28 February 2017

Mexican-American high school students in El Paso, Texas talk about what life is like on the second busiest US-Mexico border crossing. They express opposition to Trump’s wall and his government’s campaign of fear.

Those interviewed are defiant against the police state policies of Trump and speak of their desire for a better world without borders.

Great white shark invades cage, doesn’t harm diver inside

This video from Mexico says about itself:

Great White Shark Cage Breach Accident

13 October 2016

**This may not be appropriate for our younger viewers.**

This is not our usual kids content and Gabe and Garrett did not go on this trip, this video is from my trip to Guadalupe Island (I’m their dad).

On a recent great white shark cage diving trip we experienced a very rare event, a shark breaching the side of the cage. What might appear to be an aggressive great white shark trying to attack the cage, this is not the case. These awesome sharks are biting at large chunks of tuna tied to a rope. When a great white shark lunges and bites something, it is temporarily blinded. They also cannot swim backwards.

So this shark lunged at the bait, accidentally hit the side of the cage, was most likely confused and not able to swim backwards, it thrust forward and broke the metal rail of the cage.

There was a single diver inside the cage. He ended up outside the bottom of the cage, looking down on two great white sharks. The diver is a very experienced dive instructor, remained calm, and when the shark thrashed back outside the cage, the diver calmly swam back up and climbed out completely uninjured.

The boat crew did an outstanding job, lifting the top of the cage, analyzing the frenzied situation, and the shark was out after a few long seconds. Everyone on the boat returned to the cages the next day, realizing this was a very rare event. The boat owner, captain, and crew are to be commended for making what could’ve been a tragic event into a happy ending. I’m sure God and luck had a bit to do with it too!

I want to return next year for another great white shark adventure!

Porn Star Molly Cavalli Accused Of Faking Shark Attack For Viral Glory: here.

Iridescent hummingbird’s feathers

This video says about itself:

Brilliant Iridescent Throat Plumes of the Bumblebee Hummingbird

3 July 2016

The feathers on this hummingbird’s throat are surprising. One minute they’re bright red, the next, black. This is known as iridescence, a common, showy feature of many birds’ plumages, from hummingbirds to starlings to jays to ducks.

Iridescence doesn’t exist as a pigment—it is a structural color created by light striking the feathers. In each iridescent feather, keratin, melanin, and air are arranged in such a way that the appearance of the feather changes at different viewing angles.

Bumblebee hummingbirds live in Mexico. They are the smallest birds in the world.

Hummingbird migration: here.

Golden eagles in Mexico, new research

Coat of arms of Mexico, with golden eagle

This is a picture of the coat of arms of Mexico, with a golden eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus devouring a rattlesnake.

From BirdLife:

Golden Eagles’ Mexican romantic getaways

By Shaun Hurrell, 15 Sep 2016

New tracking project reveals crucial information for the conservation of Mexico’s national bird, including five new breeding territories near a quarry in Sonora. The majestic predator loves places that are hard to reach.

Careful footsteps shuffle forwards in the night. It’s a few hours before sunrise and an intense rainstorm threatens. A flash of lightning freezes the wincing face of a conservationist, who hopes his creaking backpack is not making too much noise. His colleague stumbles, so he quickly shines a red light to make sure she doesn’t collide with a prickly cactus.

They are in the remote Sonoran desert of north-west Mexico, on a special mission for a special bird. “Fear coupled with an adrenaline rush. Because if you make a mistake, they can maim you.” This is how Javier Cruz, Field Technician from Pronatura Noroeste (BirdLife in Mexico), describes fitting a radio transmitter to a Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos.

The team has scaled cliffs and camped wild in mountains to locate the Golden Eagle nests, as part of a joint project between Pronatura Noroeste and the global cement and aggregates company, CEMEX.

The project is centred on CEMEX’s nearby Cerrito Blanco quarry, set deep in the biodiverse Sonoran desert, where the partnership – which began in 2012 – has undertaken field surveys for birds, mammals, plants, reptiles and amphibians and assessed the potential impacts of human activities in the area. As part of this ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ to ensure good management of this sensitive area, Pronatura Noroeste and CEMEX studied the abundance and distribution of Golden Eagles and organised a national workshop to find out more, but this process unearthed important information for the team: the population is poorly understood nationally, let alone in the area around the quarry.

Despite a stable population trend when averaged out globally, the Golden Eagle is threatened in Mexico having been extirpated from most of its original range. The study found that over-grazing of native flora by cattle ranching is a factor, as it likely inhibits the abundance of prey availability for Golden Eagle and other top predators in the area like Mountain Lion.

Golden Eagle is a priority species for conservation nationally. “They are Mexico’s national bird” …

With surveys revealing at least two pairs of Golden Eagle nesting not far from main quarrying operations, Pronatura Noroeste’s project with CEMEX provided a unique opportunity to find out more – a chance not to be missed. The team set out to tag juvenile birds with radio-transmitters to better understand their range and dispersal, working with the Mexican Environment Agency (CONANP). “It was a unique experience,” says Javier Cruz. “And we never thought that it would yield so much information, from the daily movements, where they perch, where they fly to and above all, where they sleep.”

The transmitter-backed eagles have produced maps of the birds’ movements and now a picture is emerging of their post-natal dispersal. According to Francelia Torres, Field Technician, Pronatura Noroeste: “Now we know that their distribution can often include many municipalities, including an individual crossing the US border. As well as places very difficult to access, what surprised us the most was that Golden Eagles frequent places often with very little human disturbance.”

The project is showing that this region is very important for the conservation of Golden Eagle, and giving a real insight into their lives. After a year of having fitted transmitters, five new breeding territories have been confirmed in Sonora in 2016. The project’s workshop also enabled the training of a skilled local Golden Eagle conservation team. Miguel Cruz, Project Coordinator, Pronatura Noroeste is excited for what they can continue to find: “The team continues to strengthen, in a region where it was unknown that they could be nesting.”

One very special bird

Slap-bang in the middle of the Mexican flag, clutching a snake in its talon, perched on top of a prickly pear cactus, is a Golden Eagle. With an impressive wingspan of over two metres, the Águila Real (Royal Eagle in Spanish) is a great choice for a national emblem. But as a top predator, it is also a good indicator for the health of the Mexican environment, as it relies on abundant prey.

This is why the next phases of the project include restoration of Sonoran grassland habitat, especially focussing on a tree-like cactus that reaches over 20 metres: the Saguaro. This cactus is recognised as a keystone species in the ecosystem, meaning it supports a wide variety of other life; particularly bats and birds, which use them to nest. Other current plans include engaging landowners since changes in cattle ranching are needed to benefit the whole ecosystem, including Golden Eagle. …

Pronatura Noroeste have also begun outreach work to prevent the persecution of Golden Eagles. But surprisingly for the most part, despite their size, they are not well known by local villagers. “This is a very cautious bird,” according to Francelia. “They are even overlooked by the locals”.

The team hopes to restore local Sonoran attachment to the Golden Eagle, as their project uncovers more conservation secrets. Javier knows what this feels like, already: “After fitting the radio transmitter, freeing the eagle I felt the most immense satisfaction and sense of peace.”

Last week the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) announced the winners of the 2016 Ecological Merit Awards. Pronatura (BirdLife Mexico) was awarded for the social impact of its environmental work, winning the award in the ‘Community’ category. Read how their impact goes beyond saving birds.