Carved Narrative

ON VIEW: Sept 14, 2017 - June 3, 2018

On a trip to Mexico City in 1967, Walter and Leonore Annenberg encountered the monumental 40-foot bronze fountain on the central patio of the Museo Nacional de Antropología. The column, with its carved relief depicting the history of Mexico from the ancient past to the twentieth century, captivated the Annenbergs and aligned with Sunnylands’ pre-Hispanic aesthetic. The couple commissioned a half-scale version of the column for Sunnylands from museum architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. To create the new column, Vázquez engaged the same artists who created the museum’s column: José (1909-2002) and Tomás (1914-2001) Chávez Morado of Guanajuato, Mexico.

The Chávez Morado brothers were part of an elite group of artists working alongside the blue-chip modern architects who were reshaping Mexico City before the 1968 Olympics. Their architectural work (such as the column known throughout the world as El Paraguas at the National Museum) is prominent in Mexico City and throughout Mexico. El Paraguas (1964) is regarded by Mexicans in the same way the French view the Eiffel Tower.

The column at Sunnylands, known as the Mexican Column, contains carvings identical to those on the column in Mexico City. The images telegraph a message of unity and depict the proud Mexican people as an equal fusion of Spanish and indigenous ancestry. The Mexican Column was placed in the front entryway of Sunnylands in 1968. In an interview, Walter Annenberg spoke of its important sociopolitical message and of his desire to have the column because it told the history of the Mexican people.

Carved Narrative will be the first exhibition outside Mexico to explore both the collaborative work and individual studio paintings and sculpture of the Chávez Morado brothers. The show features sixteen paintings by José and twenty-one sculptures by Tomás at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.


The Chávez Morado brothers worked during an era immediately following the Mexican muralist movement made famous by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. These earlier murals solidified a Mexican art aesthetic born of a government-sponsored public art program following the Mexican revolution (1910-1920) that enlisted respected artists to broadcast a message of peace and unification.

• José Chávez Morado is the most famous muralist in the second wave of the Mexican muralist movement (1940s –1970s). Three of his murals adorn the walls of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City.
• Tomás Chávez Morado produced nationally recognized civic work, including the 1960 commission of 260 monumental concrete eagle heads that mark the 715-mile route of Miguel Hidalgo from Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato to Monte de las Cruces in Chihuahua.

Carved Narrative is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Supported by grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA takes place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California, from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.