Buena Vista

California Artists in Mexico 1928-1970​

The California Heritage Museum is pleased to present the exhibition "Buena Vista: California Artists in Mexico 1928-1970". Guest curated by historian and author Gordon T. McClelland,  the exhibit will open to the public on November 19, 2010 and continue through May 1, 2011. The opening reception is on Thursday evening, November 18, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Mexico is a fascinating country with many areas of extraordinary visual beauty. In the late 1920s, California artists began to discover this beauty as they ventured into Mexico in search of inspirational subject matter and the experience of working in a fresh, new environment.

“Buena Vista: California Artists in Mexico 1928 – 1970” showcases this fifty-two year period—an era when the California Style of watercolor painting gained international recognition for its important contributions to the development and promotion of the medium.

Prior to 1928 most travel into Baja California was done by wagon or on horseback. In the late 1920s the paving of roads from California into Mexico began. America had a prohibition on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a result, many cities and towns just across the Mexican border began promoting the fact that alcoholic consumption was perfectly legal there and that American tourists were welcome at their cantinas and casinos.

Among the first Californians to take advantage of the newly paved roads into Mexico were artists who were affiliated with the California Style of watercolor painting. Many artists central to this California art movement spent time painting in Mexico and the works produced during these expeditions are considered to be an essential component of their overall artistic production. Many of the watercolors, particularly those created in the 1920s and 1930s, are true Regionalist works, offering a refreshing glimpse into how this American art form was transformed through exposure to new experiences, environments and cultures.

Among the artists affiliated with the California Style that traveled to Mexico were Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Rex Brandt, Emil Kosa, Marion Wachtel, Barse Miller and Ken Potter, each of whom created watercolors inspired by what they saw and encountered that captured the picturesque landscapes and scenes of Mexican people in their everyday environment.  These artists received much attention for the works they created in Mexico, the majority of which were exhibited extensively in Los Angeles and many of which even traveled to New York City. Collectively, these watercolors constitute a captivating exhibition and also function to document an important era in the history of Mexico.