The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) presents “Miguel Covarrubias: Culture and Caricature,” July 18 through October 18. Approximately 140 works of art will be on view during this special exhibition, including recently acquired drawings and watercolor gouache renderings. These works of art are selected from the Museum’s permanent collection, as well as works from the Library of Congress, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, and Yale University.
The exhibition will display a selection of Pre-Columbian and Mexican folk art material from the SAMA permanent collection as a tribute to the 30-year friendship between Covarrubias and Nelson Rockefeller, highlighting their mutual love for the medium. Additionally, this show will be enhanced by a rare collection of books written and/or illustrated by Covarrubias, as well as historical photographs.
This exhibition is yet another example of the deep traditions guided by Curator of Latin American Art, Dr. Marion Oettinger, Jr. According to the SAMA website,”The Rockefeller connection to the San Antonio Museum of Art began in 1985 when Nelson’s daughter, Ann Rockefeller Roberts, was looking for a home for her father’s Latin American folk art collection. Rockefeller had travelled extensively in Latin America and amassed thousands of objects during his lifetime. The majority of this collection was donated to the Museum, and in 1998, a new wing of the Museum was named the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art in his honor.”
José Miguel Covarrubias Duclaud was born in Mexico City in 1904. He graduated at the age of 14 from the Esquela Nacional Preparatoria, finding himself in the middle of New York City’s “Smart Set” only five short years later.
Covarrubias made his imprint on the international popular culture scene throughout the ’20s and ’30s. His unique and pointed caricature style captured cultural influencers from show-biz to politics for the legendary publications of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. His style has impacted generations of illustrators, reaching far beyond his death in 1957.
Considered one of the most important artists of the first half of the 20th century, he was distinguished internationally not only for his skills as a caricaturist, but as a painter, archaeologist, writer, cartographer, illustrator and set and costume designer. He won not one, but two Guggenheim Fellowships (in 1933 and again in 1940). He won the 1929 National Art Directors’ Medal for his work on an advertisement for Steinway & Sons. He worked with the best and brightest of the times, a diverse collection of professional associates including Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, Eugene O’Neill and others. He didn’t follow trends. He created them.
When he and his wife, respected modern dancer and choreographer Rosa Rolando, returned to Mexico, their contributions to broadening scholarship regarding not only the modern trends in Mexico but also delving deeply into the Pre-Columbian cultural history (particularly the Olmec) of the country, had influence of a seismic nature. He taught ethnology at Esquela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia and was also appointed the artistic director and administrator for a new department at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. An academy for dance was added, and of course Rosa was instrumental in this enterprise, working closely with renowned dancer and choreographer José Limón to establish this emerging company. Their inner circle included Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo.
“Miguel Covarrubias: Culture and Caricature” will be on display in the Museum’s Special Exhibitions Gallery. Recommended is Oettinger’s Gallery Talk taking place this weekend, Sunday, July 19, 3-4 p.m. Oettinger is a lively speaker, with a passion for his subject matter. Give him your time, and you will not be disappointed.
San Antonio Museum of Art is located at 200 West Jones Avenue. For more information on museum hours and special programs, please visit the website: www.samuseum.org. You may also call the museum directly at (210) 978-8100. Free general admission is featured on Tuesdays, 4-9 p.m. and Sundays, 10a.m.-noon.
*Featured/top image: “Portrait of Rosa” was created with pencil on paper. Photo by Peggy Tenison.