Art can hold tremendous power and be an effective agent for change. It can inspire personal reflection, admonish injustices, and promote social consciousness. The exhibition Leopoldo Méndez: Voice of Social Justice features a dramatic series of graphic works by one of the most remarkable Mexican artists of the 20th century. This important selection of 24 prints, part of the Taylor Museum’s permanent collection since the early 1940s, is shown for the first time. Méndez’s depictions of violence, discrimination and resistance are extremely compelling.
Leopoldo Méndez (1902-1969) was a political activist, printmaker, painter, art teacher, and book designer. In the 1930s, along with a few others, Méndez founded the Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (League of Revolutionary Artists and Writers), and the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphic Art Workshop). Both organizations are still famously known for producing an extensive body of politically motivated graphic work. Throughout his life, Méndez worked with artists in the United States, Europe and South America creating work condemning prejudice, intolerance, abuse of power, violence, fascism, and war.
Méndez identified himself with the working class and those who suffered from oppression in his country and abroad. Especially the extermination of Jewish people by the Nazis and the countless acts of torture and cruelty during World War II made a strong impression on the artist. His dramatic works are meant to push the viewer to face reality, to be aware of what man is capable of. Méndez expects the viewer to take a stand, to not be quiet. To stay quiet is to condone an injustice. Through expressive and visually sophisticated images Méndez hopes to provoke change. The artist’s deep commitment to social justice and human rights is reflected in these artworks. They were powerful at the time of their creation, and they continue to resonate and inspire contemporary audiences.