David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974)
Rogalery http://rogallery.com/Siquieros_David_Alfaro/siqueiros-biography.htm accessed 3/21/11
“was among the most famous of all Mexican painters and muralists, ranking alongside the great Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua and trained at the Escuela Nacional de Belles Artes in Mexico City. He participated in the revival of fresco painting initiated by government sponsorship of murals in public buildings, later creating frescoes in the United States.
A political activist as well as artist, Siqueiros' exterior frescoes focused on dynamic revolutionary themes to help inspire the lower classes. His bold and vividly-colored paintings, often representing contorted and intensely emotional figures, soon became famous throughout the western hemisphere.
“Art and Corruption,” 1969
The Mexican Revolution
“was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Diaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements…. After prolonged struggles, its representatives produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917.” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Revolution accessed 3/21/11 However Siqueiros dates the revolution back to 1906. The revolution continued into the 1920s.
Attacks on Muralism
[In the early 1920s] There were [left-wing] theorists who claimed that film and photography were better as a tool of revolution.
Certain reactionary [right wing] professors said our paintings were obscene, destroying the architecture by not complementing the colonial style, and our aims were subversive (in promoting agrarian reform, workers rights, social security, etc.)
Siqueros “The Elements”
National Preparatory School
His first mural
Vasconcelos and Obregón
1922 “Siqueiros returns to México City [from Paris]. Secretary of Public Education José Vasconcelos initiates a muralist movement by commissioning artists to paint on public walls, depicting a contemporary view of Mexican culture and history to reflect the ideals of a new society. Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and others begin working together under the patronage of Vasconcelos.”
General Álvaro Obregón Salido (1880–1928) was the President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924. He was assassinated in 1928, shortly after winning election to another presidential term.
Diego Rivera’s first mural 1922-23
José Clemente Orozco, 1923. 'The Rich Banquet While the Workers Quarrel.'
Occupy Wall St protesters 'fight for downtrodden'
By Sebastian Smith (AFP) 10/18/2011
NEW YORK — Protesters at the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York say they are fighting for America's downtrodden 99 percent.
Eric Drooper (The New Yorker, Howl) poster for Occupy Wall Street, Oct. 2011
Armed students attacked and partially destroyed the murals: this was against the Mexican Revolution “of which our work was a manifestation in the field of art.” This lead to “mobilization of the people” in support of their work.
The theorists who saw the work as politically useless now changed their minds, seeing it as academic and backward.
They wanted to return Mexican art to imitation of Europe.
The government at that time favored mural painting. However, it said that if we continued to publish El Machete they would withdraw their mural contracts.
Siqueiros, Rivera, Orozco, et al., El Machete, Órgano del Sindicato de Pintores, Escultores y Gráficos de México, 1924
As a member of the Mexican Communist Party, Siqueiros helps to found the union, Syndicate of Revolutionary Mexican Painters, Sculptors and Engravers. Siqueiros, with Diego Rivera and Javier Guerrero, starts a weekly paper called El Machete. The publication later becomes the launch pad for México’s Communist Party.
“Public art” is for everyone, not just for the elite.
Mural painting as a collective phenomenon had disappeared in previous centuries.
The bourgeoisie [the rich], with their concepts of individualism and private property, created private art as we know it today, including pop art, op art, and other frivolous variations.
As the class in power, they wanted happiness and tranquility.
Pop Art: Roy Lichtenstein Drowning Girl (1963)
Aesthete: One who cultivates an unusually high sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature.
[In the beginning] Mexican muralists still had bohemian and aesthete attitudes and chose buildings for their beauty.
The working class said: begin with political content.
Art cannot break down the barriers which society erects, except in a relative way.
Originally the art of muralism was based on the best aspects of the Mexican Revolution. Later the government sought to limit this.
But we have always tried to create art that could reach the multitudes.
“is one of three murals painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros while he was a political refugee in Los Angeles between April and November 1932. It is the only surviving intact mural in the United States by the world-renowned Mexican muralist. Street Meeting was destroyed due to the elements and Tropical America, due to its controversial subject matter, was whitewashed and left abandoned for decades until the J. Paul Getty Museum undertook to maintain it.” http://www.sbma.net/siqueiros/mural_imagery.html
“Portrait of Mexico Today” is in Santa Barbara.
Portrait of Mexico Today, 1932
Portrait of the Bourgeoisie 1939
Mexican Electricians Union, Mexico City
Death of the Invader, Chile, 1941-43
David Alfaro Siqueiros mural in Tecpan, c. 1944
"La Nueva Democracia" David Alfaro Siqueiros (Palacio de Bellas Artes) 1944
From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution—The Revolutionaries by David Alafaro Siqueiros
Acrylic on plywood, 1957-65
Del porfirismo a la Revolución 1957-1966
In 1962, the Mexican government sentenced Siqueiros to eight years in prison for organizing left-wing student riots in 1960 (when Siqueiros was 64 years of age); two years later, in 1964, Siqueiros was pardoned.
In 1964, as candidate for People’s Electoral Front, I argued for the freedom of artistic creation and in defense of our mural movement.
Every revolution in social life brings with it an equivalent transformation in artistic forms and consequent modifications in esthetics.
Easel painting is limited by the environment…
The environment dictates the themes which are used to those set by the buyers.
Modern buyers always prefer something light and amiable.
Although the artist creates for man, it is class that determines art.
The true artist creates for everyone.
I did a painting of architect Carlos Lazlo but did not sell him my ideology.
The tourist market of the United States contributed to the distortion of pictorial production, taking artists away from muralism.
“Mexican curios” became increasingly innocuous.
The younger generation has no contact with the living realities of the country.
Archaeologism is typical of Mexican art today [late 1960s].
The avant-garde extracts styles: they are stylish stylists and anti-realist formalists.
Picasso should not be seen as an exception in a world of decadence but as an active expression of decadence.
Picasso Television: Quaker, Peau-Rouge, Ecuyere, from the 347 Series, 26 September, 1968, Mougins
The Basic Problem is One of Class
Democratic governmental organization leads to democratic expressions in art.
The class that governs is the one that orients culture.
The threat to the muralist movement comes from imperialist penetration in the realm of culture.
The state aims to replace socially conscious muralism with murals that are exclusively ornamental.
Only the state can promote transcendent art: only revolutionary states have promoted art.
The struggle for a progressive State is the duty of all Mexican artists.
“Katya Mandoki advances in this book the thesis that it is not only possible but crucial to open up the field of aesthetics (traditionally confined to the study of art and beauty) toward the richness and complexity of everyday life. She argues that in every process of communication, whether face to face or through the media, fashion, and political propaganda, there is always an excess beyond the informative and functional value of a message. This excess is the aesthetic.”
Katya Mandoki es profesora de estética, teoría de la cultura y semiótica en la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana de México donde coordina el área de Estética aplicada del Posgrado en Diseño. Estudió filosofía y artes visuales obteniendo el doctorado con la tesis Estética y poder.