Mexican Muralism: Fundamental aesthetic goal of the movement was to socialize artistic expression and wipe out bourgeois individualism, to repudiate the practice of easel painting, to commit itself to the goal of a monumental public mural art, and to direct itself...to the native races humiliated for centuries; to the soldiers made into hangmen by their officers, to the peasants and worker scourged by the rich.”1

BIO: David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. He is part of “Los Tres Grandes,” which means the “Big Three” muralists, and he is the youngest. The other two were Diego Rivera and Jose Orozco. His paternal grandparents took care of him along with his younger brother, Chucho and older sister named Luz. Their mother, Teresa Siqueiros, passed away when David was only 2 years old. His father, Cipriano Alfaro, who was a lawyer, had many altercations that cause Siqueiros to run away at the age of 15. Siqueiros had training at the art school at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City in 1911 when he was only 15 years old and also attended the Mexican Academy in Mexico City in 1913 and 1914. His first mural, created for Jose Vasconcelos, was on the walls of Chico College. In 1935, he developed an Experimental workshop in New York, where he taught and trained students about new synthetic and industrial materials. One of the members in this workshop was Jackson Pollock.

INFLUENCES ON HIS ART: According to Philip Stein, author of the book Siqueiros: His Life and Works, states “What more profoundly affected Siqueiros as a young boy was his first exposure to art - the religious paintings hanging in the school.”2 Balochie noted that Siqueiros’ style was influenced by Michelangelo: “his work contains the powerful, foreshortened figures characteristic of Michelangelo and the bold perspective of Baroque art throughout his career.”3 Siqueiros derived his love of the modern age from the Italian Futurist, incorporating his love of speed, machines and technology into his work. Siqueiros was also influenced by the ideas of Dr. Atl, Director of the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City, who encouraged him to join the military and political struggle of the Mexican Revolution. He did join the military, and in two years was attained the rank of second captain. From 1919 to 1922, he traveled in Europe where he studied and visited museums in Belgium, France, Italy, and Spain: there he became friends with Diego Rivera.

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ASPECTS: Siqueiros was influenced by Marxism as evident from his concern towards class struggle. He admired both the workingman and modern technology. Rochfort Desmond, author of the book Mexican Muralists, states “The murals represent a people’s roots, their ethnicity, their shared sense of origin, in which the examination and re-appropriation of history can focus on the struggles for freedom, liberty, justice and, above all, identity.”1 One of Siqueiros’s purposes was to communicate to the people about the civilization and the history of the Mexican people.

Since Siqueiros was young he was involved in politics and social struggle. In 1911, when Siqueiros when he was young and was attending the Academy of San Carlos, he joined in his first political strike with other students in which they forced the director, Antonio Rivas Mercado to resign because of the unfair teaching methods. Siqueiros served his first ever sentence for throwing rocks at the director. He was subsequently arrested seven times for political beliefs and actions. In 1914 he stopped his studies, and when he was 17 he joined the Constitutionalist Army on the side of the Revolution.

Siqueiros included a great deal of social content in his work and in becoming a painter he was inspired by the ideas and experiences of the Revolution.1 He even joined a radical discussion group, which was made up of all painters who once served in the Revolution. This group were called Centro Bohemio and held meetings to confer about the purpose and directional path of art in the Revolutionary Mexican Society. Throughout the post-war period, Siqueiros’ political and artistic ideas between the 1920s and 1930s included a close relation between social revolution and modern technology.1 In the 1930s, he expressed his revolutionary political message using what he viewed as equally revolutionary technical means from modern technology, such as the spray gun, nitrocellulose pigments, and photography for mural producion.4 Siqueiros was named Executive Secretary of the Mexican Communist Party. Most of his works involved his political and social concerns and included figure forms that represented the revolutionary struggles towards freedom in the 19th century and also towards modern advancement.

 

SOURCES:
1. Rochfort, Desmond. 1994. Mexican Muralists. Universe Publishing.
2. Stein, Philip. 1994. Siqueiros: His Life and Works. International Publishers, New York.
3. Balochie. “David Alfaro Siqueiros.” September 24, 2003. http://staff.esuhsd.org/~balochie/studentprojects/mexmuralists/Siqueiros_bio.html
4. Murlburt, Lawrance P. 1998. Mexican Muralists in the U.S.

 

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