A Forgotten Downtown Neighborhood showcases the culturally significant Mexican American community in downtown Austin, a project of Mexic-Arte Museum in conjunction with the Austin History Center & Photography Collection.
In the 1870’s, Austin’s early Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans created a vibrant business and cultural community just west of downtown Congress Avenue to the banks of the Shoal Creek. Republic Square Park, then known as Mexican Park, was the cultural heart of the area.
Printmaking is the process of making an image on one surface and transferring that image onto another surface. There’s various types of printmaking, such as Relief printing, Intaglio, Serigraphy, and Lithography. The Ernest F. de Soto collection is one of the earlier print collections that comprises the Mexic-Arte Museum permanent collection. Ernest F. de Soto was the first Mexican American printer to be awarded the honor of Tamarind Master Printer, and is well known for his lithography workshops of the 1960s. The Mexic-Arte Permanent Collection also houses the Taller de Grafica Popular (TGP, Popular Graphics Workshop) Collection, which was initially created in 1937 by artists Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O’Higgins, Luis Arenal, and a small group of dedicated printmakers. Our Prints Collection is vast in content and is also designated as the official archive of prints from the Serie Print Project, a non-profit Latinx art organization and residency program that produces, promotes, and exhibits serigraph prints created by established and emerging artists.
Sculpture may be the oldest visual expression, represented by a carved pebble found in South Africa with a human face dated 3,000,000 BCE. Prehistoric peoples made relief and free standing sculptures of animals and the Mother Goddess. Artists in Mesopotamia created portraits in stone of deities and historic leaders. The Egyptians advanced sculpture, which inspired the Greeks to carve realistic statues of gods and humans. The Renaissance artist, like Michelangelo, perfected the medium. Inspired by Greek and Renaissance art, Impressionist artist Rodin rejuvenated sculpture in marble and bronze. Later, modern artists Barbara Hepworth, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, and Henry Moore produced nontraditional works. Texas born Chicano sculptor Luis Jimenez interpreted the Chicano culture through his fiberglass creations.
Mexic-Arte Museum Library houses over 5,000 books and periodicals from the 19th century to the present. The non-circulating rare books include five volumes of the publication México a través de los siglos and Picture Book I and II by Jean Charlot. Other highlights of the library collection include limited edition exhibition catalogs, self-published works, and Mexic-Arte Museum publications.
Painting is one of the oldest art forms in the history of art. The oldest wall paintings can be found in Africa, Egypt, Mexico, France, and Spain. A painting is an image on a surface, such as stone, wood, glass, paper, metal, or canvas, created by using colors (pigments). Painting mediums include fresco (wet or dry), encaustic, watercolor, oil, pastel, enamel, and acrylic. Famous Mexican painters include “Los Tres Grandes: Jose Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Siqueiros. Carlos Almaraz, Barbara Carrasco, Santa Barraza, Gronk are popularly known Chicana/o painters. The Mexic-Arte Museum Collection includes an array of paintings, including drawings made using a painting medium.
The history of photography (the word means “drawing with light”) begins with the camera obscura, which used a mirror to capture an image and project it to a wall, paper, or canvas. The early camera obscura was used in astronomy, and found in China as early as the 4th century BCE; eventually, Renaissance artists innovated the camera obscura as a drawing aid. Through trial and error, the camera evolved to produce a photograph by exposing a light sensitive plate or film which would be developed by chemicals. Today, traditional or analog photography has been almost replaced by digital photography. Mexican photography is well represented by Manuel Alvarez Bravo; Delilah Montoya is a popular Chicana photographer.
Decorative arts or crafts, which includes glasswork, tapestries, ceramics, sacred objects, furniture, and even decorative wallpaper, are made to be beautiful and practical. Once seen as “lesser art,” a notion originating in the Renaissance, decorative arts have gained popularity for their aesthetic quality. The Arts and Crafts movement, begun in England in the 19th century, elevated decorative arts to a higher status. Decorative art from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods are unique in design and sought by collectors. Decorative art made in the American Fancy era in the late 1800s include “fancy” snuff boxes, fans, combs, and brushes. Today, the American Craft movement features artists using traditional materials to make functional decorative art, like chairs, metalwork, or glasswork.
The Mexic-Arte Museum, established in 1984, is one of the earliest institutions in the Austin area that has focused on Mexican and Mexican – American culture and art, featuring traditional and contemporary genres. Evolving from the “happenings” of the 1960s, contemporary performance art blends visual art and transmedia, with dramatic performance. Over the years, Mexic-Arte has held many performances by well known and emerging artists.