Two Texans at the MoMA: Medellin and Spruce

As part of the graduation requirements to earn my Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies from Southern Methodist University, I completed a capstone project titled Two Texans at the MoMA: Medellin and Spruce. The purpose of my project was to collaborate with the Bywaters Special Collections staff to complete a research paper using the many primary sources available in the collection. The paper examined the historical significance of the exhibit catalog of the “Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States” and the Texas regional artists represented in the exhibition.

Two Texas regional painters, Octavio Medellin (1907-1999) and Everett Spruce (1907-2002) were the only two Texas artists included in the exhibition “Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, January 21-March 8, 1942. The Bywaters Special Collections in the Hamon Arts Library at Southern Methodist University, named for Jerry Bywaters who was a leader in the Texas regional art movement, holds a personalized copy of the catalog from that exhibition. Through studying the MoMA catalog and using the primary sources in the Bywaters’ archive at SMU, I was able to determine why the MoMA chose to hold this exhibition, what the iconographic and stylistic themes of the exhibition were, and the criteria for selection of the 18 artists. The archive also provided me with valuable information regarding the careers and contributions of the artists. Working with the knowledgeable and helpful staff in the archive made the journey into the world of primary sources an enlightening and pleasurable experience.

For information about Octavio Medellin and Everett Spruce and to access the primary source in Bywaters SpecialCollections, please visit:

Blog post: Courtesy of LaGail Davis, General Operations Manager, Hamon Arts Library, CUL, SMU.

Image: Cover of the cited exhibition catalogue: Dorothy Canning Miller, ed., Americans, 1942: 18 artists from 9 states (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1942).

One thought on “Two Texans at the MoMA: Medellin and Spruce

  1. Hi,

    I’m an SMU alumnus (B.A. Class of 2010, Ph.D. Class of 2017). I double majored in Art and Ethnic studies, and received a doctorate in American history. I’m always delighted to read about Octavio Medellin. His story is familiar to me, because I studied under one of his former students, Tomas Bustos, before attending SMU. Tomas talked about him all the time, and he had nothing but praise for the man.

    During my second year as a doctoral student, I was part of a team that researched the Latina/o history of SMU, and to my surprise, I found that Medellin actually taught a few courses at SMU. It’s a shame that he is not listed as a notable person associated with the school. It’s amazing that an artist originally from San Luis Potosi, MX distinguished himself in Dallas and has pieces in various museums around the country – including our own DMA. I thoroughly enjoyed the Maya-Toltec exhibit at the Hamon and look forward to seeing more done to recognize this important local artist. If anyone is interested in reading the short essay on SMU Latina/o history mentioned above, it’s up on the SMU Scholar database (see link below). Thank you.

    Ruben A.

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