The foundation of Art in Embassies (AIE), a U.S. Department of State program, began with an International Council established by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1953 to exhibit American works of art in U.S. embassies. Building on these efforts and recognizing the importance of art in international cultural outreach, an AIE office was created by the John F. Kennedy administration in 1963. Since then, AIE has grown and continues its mission to promote cultural diplomacy through art by way of artist exchanges and programs exhibiting a diverse group of American artists as well as international artists and artists from the host countries.
The “The United States and Mexico: A Powerful Past, A Shared Future” exhibition at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residency in Mexico City will explore the long-standing relationship between the United States and Mexico through a visual narrative that highlights a shared history of struggle and hope. Featured themes include the fight for civil and human rights, indigenous representation, and visions for the future. Together, these works demonstrate a mutual quest for human dignity across two inextricably bound nations. This exhibition is organized with the generous support of lenders including Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas, Colección y Archivo de Fundación Televisa, Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V. (FEMSA), and Dr. Isaac Masri.
This exhibition recognizes the diverse indigenous groups living in the United States and Mexico and their contributions to the nation’s cultural richness. Artistic life flourished for nearly two thousand years before the colonial era; artisans honored their gods and leaders with complex stone carving, ceramics, and relief sculpture. Today, their descendants use traditional methods, storytelling to create works that celebrate the survival and vitality of their communities.
This exhibition also alludes to the colonial era, a period marked by conflict, subordination, and new beginnings that has left a complex and much debated legacy that has played out in the arts. The revered Virgin of Guadalupe was, notably, a reconciliation of Catholic and pre-Hispanic beliefs. Mestizo and Mexican American artists also draw inspiration from indigenous and Western art to create hybrid expressions that mirror Mexico and the U.S.’s diverse ethnic makeup.
The stories of our two nations contain both tragedy and hope, with conquest, war, and families separated across borders. For example, people of Mexican ancestry have a long and distinguished history in the United States military; their presence was particularly prominent during World War II. In both countries, mestizos and indigenous peoples have always struggled for rights, respect, and recognition, along with African Americans and other underrepresented peoples. On both sides of the border, artists have used their creative abilities to further these causes. During Mexican Revolution, artists from the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) used their prints to widely circulate revolutionary causes; in the U.S., artists worked side by side with leaders of the Chicano Movement to create works that promoted social justice and equality.
For both nations, our futures are inextricably linked, driven by change, the hopes of many generations, and the dreams of our young people. Emerging and established artists honor their communities, families, and traditions with vibrant and exuberant expressions of creativity. They reconsider and rethink conventional artistic boundaries, imagining new, sometimes playful, but always culturally conscious and wholly original works.
Ambassador Ken Salazar
Mexico City, Mexico