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By: Brenda Torres

The Harold Washington Library Center of the Chicago Public Library is hosting the exhibit Pintando: Colors of Education, a group of paintings that were once used has covers for educational textbooks in Mexico.  Pintando: Colors of Education brings together a variety of 41 works of art by Mexican painters, whose works were used to adorn textbook covers.  The exhibit is being hosted in collaboration with the Comisión NationalNacional de Libros de Texto Gratuitos (CONALITEG) of Mexico and the Mexican Consulate of Chicago.  The works of art are featured on the 9th floor of the library along with other exhibits.

“They  are celebrating the people, the community and most important celebrating the artwork with education,” said Mario Gastelum, Administrationve  Assistant, Culture Affairs of the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago.  The collection has traveled across Mexico and now has made it to Chicago and later will go New York. “One of the reasons we wanted to host the exhibit because of the subject matter with us being a library. Anything educational that connects the community to education, and lifelong learning, that is what the library is all about,” said Michelle Craarnes, Chief Division Chief, General Information Services from at the Harold Washington Library Center.  

The artwork on the textbooks were created because of President Adolfo Lopez Mateos, of 1958 to 1964.  His government addressed the lack of education that was being offered to the people of Mexico.  Through the support of the Secretary of Public Education, Jaime Torres Bodet, strategies were put together to better, “improve national education to help Mexico progress and modernize, including providing free textbooks to school children,” according to the exhibit explanation.  The first president of CONALITEG, Martin Luis Guzman commissioned the well-known artists of Mexico between 1960- 1962 and 1987-1988, to adorn the textbooks covers of preschool, elementary, and middle school books.  

The first set of paintings on display depicts the reconstruction of Mexico’s culture image, according to the explanation of the exhibit.  These works of art represent the history and culture of Mexico. For example, one of the murals, untitled, a textbook cover during 1960-1962, “My third yearbook, Geography,” by Fernando Leal, has the 5 historical figures involved in the Mexican Independence: Miguel Hidalgo, Doña Josefa Ortíz Domínquez, Vicente Guerrero, Ignacio Allende, and José María Morelos.  Members of El Muralismo, the Mexican mural movement, created the paintings.

Another important painting that is highly recognized in the exhibit is La Patria, the homeland, by Jorge González Camarena.  The painting portrays, a woman dressed in white, with her arms open, holding a book in one hand, and in the other hand the Mexican Flag, surrounding her are other Mexican symbols.  La Patria, was used for a first year book in 1962.

Moving forward in the exhibit, modern textbook covers are shown.  The textbook covers were updated in 1987-1988 by a different a  set of artists known as the La Generacion de la Ruptura, or the Breakaway Generation.  These paintings differ from the 1960s in depiction because they do not portray Mexican national symbols. “These artist distanced themselves from national themes and traditional, approaches to art and explored aesthetics influenced by European and American art movements,” according to the exhibit explanation.  For example, the textbook cover, “My first grade book, Activities, Part II” by Elvira Gascón, is a collage on paper, of two children writing with birds surrounding them.

“We have a visitors comment book for visitors, and not only do we get people from Chicago and Chicagoland, but we get people from across the nation and literally from across the world, who come through to the library and have visited the exhibit.  They have left all shorts of wonderful comments about the artwork. Some people especially remember, especially La Patria, remember seeing that it on their school book cover,” said Crarnes.

The exhibit features a display case of some of the original books from both generations.  There is also an example of a child’s desk in a display case with a textbook on it, “Know our constitution” from 1997.  

July 23, the library will be hosting a panel discussion on the exhibit. The panel will include Gibran Villalobos curator from the Museum of Contemporary Art,  Professor Oscar Alatriste from UNAM Chicago, and Francisco Lavadia Olavarria from the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago. They will discuss on the educational system of Mexico, and history of the paintings and have a Q & A session afterwards. The exhibit is available until July 31.

Take a look at some of the artwork below! 

Untitled, by Fernando Leal, a textbook cover during 1960-1962, “My third year book, Geography.” Portrayed are Miguel Hidalgo, Doña Josefa Ortíz Domínquez, Vicente Guerrero, Miguel Domínquez, Ignacio Allende, and José María Morelos, historialhistorical figures of the Mexican Independence.

La Patria or Homeland by Jorge González Camarena, 1962, used for a first year textbook.

Untitled, by Elvira Gascón “My first grade book, Activities, Part II.”  Shows two children writing with birds surrounding them.

Featured desk with textbook, “Know our constitution” from 1997.  

 


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