Six Modernists in Mexico

What is in common between Anni Albers, Sheila Hicks, and Ruth Asawa beside the fact that they were all accomplished designers in the mid-century years? A new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, entitled ‘In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury,’ comes to reveal how their experiences in Mexico between the 1940s and the 1970s had come to shape their work in the arts. It is curated by Zoë Ryan, John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design.
 
One of the most anticipated design exhibitions of this season, its title is borrowed from a quote by the leading designer and a political exile from Cuba Clara Porset who suggested: “There is design in everything…in a cloud…in a wall…in a chair…in the sea…in the sand…in a pot,” when describing the material culture of Mexico. The exhibition examines the creative processes of six women designers, including Mexican photographer Lola Álvarez Bravo; German émigré Anni Albers who visited in Mexico and famously saw the local landscape and architecture as a vital source of inspiration; Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa, whose looped-wire baskets were based on a technique she learnt in Mexico; and Cynthia Sargent who moved to Mexico City from New York in 1951, where, together with her husband, produced textiles and rugs in their weaving workshop. 

Above: Cynthia Sargent. Bartok, designed 1955/60, produced about 1967. Ardis Berghoff Collection, in memory of Georgia Beros Berghoff, SAIC ’52. Photography: © The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Anni Albers. Study for Camino Real, 1967. © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2019. Photography by Tim Nighswander

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Anarchy in Mexico City), about 1954. Collection of González Rendón Family. © Center for Creative Photography. Photography by Rodrigo Chapa, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Clara Porset. Butaque Chair, about 1955–56. Collection of Gálvez Guzzy Family/Casa Gálvez. © The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography by Rodrigo Chapa

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Sheila Hicks. Learning to Weave in Taxco, Mexico, about 1960. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Martha Bennett King in memory of her brother, Dr. Wendell Clark Bennett. © Sheila Hicks. Photography: © The Art Institute of Chicago.

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