The exhibition, Carved Narrative: Los Hermanos Chávez Morado, chronicled the Annenbergs’ search for a signature fountain for Sunnylands and their discovery of the work of Mexican artists and brothers, José and Tomás Chávez Morado. The exhibition celebrated the column that the brothers ultimately fashioned for Sunnylands and explored the studio work and individual careers of each artist through 16 paintings by José and 21 sculptures by Tomás.
The bilingual exhibition, Carved Narrative: Los Hermanos Chávez Morado, was on view from September 14, 2017, through June 3, 2018.
A fountain for Sunnylands
Installed in 1968, the columnar fountain at Sunnylands greets visitors as they approach the main entrance of the historic house.
Carved reliefs tell the history of Mexico. In this example, the profiles of two men merge, one indigenous and one Spanish, illustrating the integration of the two main bloodlines of modern Mexico’s population.
José and Tomás Chávez Morado
José (left) and Tomás (right) established individual careers as artists and professors. They were well-known midcentury artists, creating some of the most iconic public artworks in Mexico.
The brothers shared an interest in depicting the cultural traditions of Mexico, such as religious devotion, festivals, and the matriarchal society of Tehuana women in the southern Mexican city of Tehuantepec.
While the brothers’ work is well-known in Mexico, Carved Narrative: Los Hermanos Chávez Morado marked the first time their studio work was exhibited together in the United States.
Los Hermanos Chávez Morado
Walter and Leonore Annenberg discovered the artwork of José and Tomás Chávez Morado while on vacation in Mexico City in 1967. The Annenbergs were captivated by a 40-foot-tall columnar fountain on the patio of the National Museum of Anthropology that featured a relief designed by José and carved by Tomás. The piece’s fusion of modern architecture and ancient symbolism paralleled the design aesthetic of Sunnylands. When the Annenbergs returned to Rancho Mirage, they commissioned Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the museum’s principal architect, to deliver a half-scale version of the column for Sunnylands. Ramírez Vázquez turned to the Chávez Morado brothers to create this new column, which was installed at Sunnylands in 1968.
Like the original structure in Mexico City, the carved relief adorning the Sunnylands column depicts the history of Mexico, from its Mesoamerican past and independence from colonial rule to a postrevolutionary, thriving and modern Mexico. Walter Annenberg admired the column because of this thought-provoking depiction of Mexico’s fascinating history.
The catalog for Carved Narrative: Los Hermanos Chávez Morado contains an essay by Anne Rowe, director of collections and exhibitions at Sunnylands. Rowe previously held positions at Boston’s Copley Society of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her previous publications include Treasures at Sunnylands: Selections from the Gift Collection of Walter and Leonore Annenberg and The Pleasure of Your Company: Entertaining at Sunnylands.
The digital versions of both the English and Spanish catalogs are available here for download