Jose Clemente Orozco and the Epic of “Greater America”

In this talk, Dr. Mary K. Coffey (Dartmouth) examines Mexican Muralist Jose Clemente Orozco’s contributions to formulations of the American epic in the 1930s through an analysis of his fresco cycle, The Epic of American Civilization, painted at Dartmouth College between 1932 and 34. The presentation will focus on scenes in the “Modern” half of the cycle that pertain to the relationship between what was called “Anglo” and “Hispano” America. She demonstrates how Orozco’s critical engagement with period formulations of Pan-Americanism challenged ideas about US America’s exceptionalism while also considering how his challenge can inform to contemporary debates over race and immigration.

Mary Coffey is Professor of Art History at Dartmouth College. She specializes in the history of modern Mexican visual culture, with an emphasis on Mexican muralism and the politics of exhibition. She also publishes in the fields of American art, Latin American cultural studies, and museum studies. She has published essays on a broad range of visual culture, from Mexican folk art to motorcycles to eugenics exhibitions. She is the author of  How a Revolutionary Art Became Official Culture: Murals, Museums, and the Mexican State (Duke, 2012), and Orozco's American Epic: Myth, History, and the Melancholy of Race (Duke, 2020) which offers the first book-length analysis of Jose Clemente Orozco's 24 panel fresco, The Epic of American Civilization, painted at Dartmouth College between 1932-34.