BLOG #7: A Mexican Muralist

The movement of Mexican Muralism embodied a new approach to art that spread from Latin America throughout the Western Hemisphere over the course of the 20th century. A pioneer of this movement was the Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who lived from 1896 to 1974. Siqueiros led a double life as both warrior and artist, and often fought on the wrong side of whatever government he was under and consequently served a number of jail terms. As an artist, he specialized in mural painting, often on vast scales; however, he worked in the traditional form as well, particularly during his years in prison.

In my opinion, a substantial portion of Siqueiros’s output is of high quality and very fascinating. I’m going to give two examples, the first a little tamer and the second more typical for him.

Here is the first picture, Vista Aerea. I was first drawn to it because of its bold colors and sharp yet convoluted outlines. Siqueiros painted this picture in 1968, near the end of his life. It is one of his few landscape pieces, and lacks the political content of much of his work.

Upon viewing this picture, I felt that the scene was familiar, as if it is an abstract reconstruction of an actual vista. Sure enough, a little browsing on the web revealed the  photograph below, a current portrayal of the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. And indeed, there is an eerie similarity between the art and the photograph.

I wasn’t able to find a connection between the artwork and any mention of the famous Incan city online, but I do feel that the layout and shapes of the art contain an uncanny resemblance to the photograph. Since Siqueiros was known to base some of his art upon photographs, the picture may have had a conscious connection to the place, at least in its creator’s mind. However, whatever the inspiration for Vista Aerea, it remains a great example of abstract art from the Mexican Muralist art culture.

A more typical, and striking, example of Siqueiros’s art is Echo of a Scream.

Created much earlier, in 1937, this picture depicts the pain and terror associated with life in many of the Latin countries, particularly Mexico, during that time period. Stylistically, this art better reflects Siqueiros’s common usage of mural techniques. There is an unmistakable three-dimensional quality wrapped up in the shapes and colors. In addition, this painting is done on wood, a base material of which Siqueiros was fond.

The childlike figure and its enlarged counterpart (presumably representing the echo) are the only human features in the work. A feeling of cold mingled with the clanking of rusty iron suggests a world of machinery in which the person is inexorably trapped.  To me, this picture is the perfect example of why art can never be replaced. Such a scene could never exist in the real world, yet there is no finer depiction of the suffering of innocent humanity at the hands of relentless political machines at war.

In a twist of irony, this picture was created during one of the artist’s stints in America, when he ran workshops for young artists. One of these was Jackson Pollock, who would go on to become a pioneer in pure, or true abstract, art.



2 thoughts on “BLOG #7: A Mexican Muralist

  1. The fisrt picture you posted “Vista Aerea” I really though tthat it looked liked cars going up a mountain. I did like the colors that were used but that’s what I saw in the picture. So I really like that you posted the second picture of the ruins of Machu Picchu because the similarity is astounding. I love the ruins that lead up to the mountains and looking back at the first picture it all really makes sense. I think you did a great job on the research and links.

  2. Overall, a very good blog. I like how you mentioned that the first painting “Vista Aerea” was an abstract landscape painting and how it is a painting of a very well know vista. The “Echo of a Scream” was very dark. It really is a reflection of the terror in the Latin American countries. It is also reflected in their literature. An example is Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.” Have you every read any of the Latin literature? Do you see any connections in their art?

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