Renowned Mexican author and influential political commentator Carlos Fuentes died of unknown causes yesterday in Mexico City. Fuentes was the author of many literary works and had continued writing up to his death. His most notable novels include La región más transparente (Where the Air is Clear), La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The Death of Artemio Cruz), Terra Nostra, and Las buenas conciencias (The Good Conscience). Fuentes was often cited as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but never won it.
Although controversial at times, Carlos Fuentes is considered one of three great contemporary Latin American writers, alongside Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa. Political leaders from all around the world have expressed their condolences, including the president of his home country. Mexican President Felipe Calderón noted on Twitter that he “deeply laments the death of the beloved and admired Carlos Fuentes, a writer and universal Mexican.”
Fuentes was an influential and important figure in Latin American politics. He discussed political issues like corruption, censorship, immigration, and was an outspoken supporter of Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The prominent writer also emphasized that “literature and education were essential” to try to eliminate corruption. He often stated the vital roles artists—like himself—played to advance societies and “to point out what needs to be heard.”
From 1931-1932, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera created eight large-scale, “portable” murals for a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Eighty years later, five of these works—freestanding murals as large as six by eight feet, made of steel armature, reinforced concrete and frescoed plaster— have been reunited in “Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art,” on view at MoMA through May 14.
Visiting on a recent Sunday, I was struck by how contemporary the themes of the works—which are divided into a Mexico and a New York series—felt. They span questions of national identity, class inequality and the role of public art in an increasingly commercialized art world.
The first half of the exhibition, dedicated to the Mexico-themed works, offers a somewhat mythologized chronology of Mexican history, from its pre-Columbian and conquista past to its revolution and then its industrial present. Though painted in New York in the six weeks leading up to the exhibition’s opening, they reflect themes Rivera explored in fixed murals he painted in Mexico during the 1920s, when the country was still emerging from revolution and was in the process of actively forging a new cultural identity. They were all produced in the classical fresco style, which Rivera studied in Italy in 1921 at the request of Mexico’s Minister of Education as part of a public art initiative by the Álvaro Obregón government.