Abraham Ángel paintings on view in rare exhibit at Dallas Museum of Art

Beginning September 10, the Dallas Museum of Art will present Abraham Ángel: Between Wonder and Seduction, the first major survey of Ángel’s work in more than 35 years and the first dedicated showing of his paintings in the United States. The exhibition will spotlight the singular artistic style Ángel cultivated during his brief three-year career, successfully capturing the rapidly changing society and culture of Mexico City in the 1920s.

Organized thematically, Ángel’s paintings will be shown alongside a selection of works by his contemporaries, including his mentors Adolfo Best Maugard and Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, contextualizing his artistic practice within the broader narrative of Mexican modernism.

“We are thrilled to present the first full retrospective of a magnificent artist whose life was cut tragically short just as his works were taking the Mexican art scene by surprise in the 1920s,” Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director, said. “Living in a society that was not ready for him, Ángel suffered harassment and discrimination during his lifetime, but his art embodies joy and vivacity while tracing Mexico’s transformation from rural to modernized. This exhibition reveals to the world the artistic qualities which had no precedent and no comparison within his times. Ángel’s life story continues to resonate, and his art will captivate audiences of today as it did a century ago.”

Praised as one of the leading artists of his generation, Abraham Ángel (1905–1924) produced just 24 paintings—four of which remain lost—during his brief three-year career. At the age of 16, Ángel met the painter Adolfo Best Maugard, who had developed an important drawing method based on the combination of seven basic design elements. In the wake of the Mexican Revolution, the Maugard Method was embraced by the nation’s education system for its underlying message that anyone could learn to create compelling works of art with the proper training.

Ángel joined a generation of young students and artists who explored the potential of the Maugard Method, and its influence is evident in his early works. Over the next two years, as Ángel immersed himself in the cultural scene of Mexico City—beginning an intense romantic relationship with painter Manuel Rodríguez Lozano—he developed a distinct visual language and style.

Ángel’s sudden death at 19 due to cocaine overdose shocked the Mexican art world, immortalizing him as a legendary figure and cementing his place in the canon of modern Mexican art. In eulogies written by Mexico’s greatest cultural luminaries, from the poet Salvador Novo to the painter Diego Rivera, Ángel’s work was recognized for its vivacity, individuality and uninhibited expression of mexicanidad, or “Mexicanness.” Across Ángel’s paintings, the young artist explores the intersections between national and personal identity through the natural environment, Indigenous cultures and urban life.

Curated by Dr. Mark A. Castro, the DMA’s former Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art, Between Wonder and Seduction will explore these themes by bringing Ángel’s unique works into dialogue with those of his contemporaries.

“Despite the shortness of his career, Ángel had an immense impact on Mexico City’s artistic scene in the early 1920s. Tapping into the capital’s emerging queer subculture, Ángel’s work asserted his own identity and in doing so carved out space for future queer artists in Mexico,” Castro said. “Although the achievements of his life have sometimes been overshadowed by his untimely death, viewing Ángel’s body of work together underscores the bold and colorful imagination of this young artist, and only serves to reinforce his status as a leading figure in modern Mexican art.”

Abraham Ángel: Between Wonder and Seduction will be accompanied by the first English-language publication on the artist. The exhibition will travel to the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, where it will be on view from March 16 to July 9, 2024.

Catalogue

Abraham Ángel: Between Wonder and Seduction will be accompanied by the first English-language publication on the artist. While previous scholarship surrounding the artist has focused on the circumstances of his untimely death, original essays by Dr. Mark A. Castro and Mireida Velázquez shift the spotlight to Ángel’s innovative and enduring work and how it reflects the broader political, social and cultural currents that were transforming Mexico in the wake of the country’s violent revolution.

Featuring previously unpublished images, this beautifully illustrated volume reassesses the artist’s legacy and draws readers into the world of one of the most unique painters in the history of Mexican art.

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