Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Siqueiros, David Alfaro

Pastel on paper
100.0 x 187.0 cm
Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico

David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) was a Mexican social realist painter and muralist whose work reflected his Marxist ideology. He was one of the three founders of the modern school of Mexican mural painting, along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. He was a Stalinist and member of the Mexican Communist Party who participated in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky in May 1940.

A political activist since his youth, Siqueiros, the son of a bourgeois family, studied at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, Mexico City, before leaving in 1913 to fight in the army of Venustiano Carranza, eventually attaining the rank of captain, during the Mexican Revolution. Later he continued his art studies in Europe.

In 1922, after returning to Mexico, Siqueiros painted frescoes on the walls of the National Preparatory School and began organizing and leading unions of artists and workingmen. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), he commanded several brigades for the Republicans. In 1959 the Mexican government sentenced Siqueiros to five years in jail for supporting a railroad workers' union. After he was released in 1964, he continued to show his fiery passion for left-wing causes. He strongly backed the new Cuban government and its leader, Fidel Castro, and came out swinging against the U.S. and its war in Vietnam. Over four decades, his labor-union work and his communist political activities led to numerous jailings and periods of exile.

Most of his large murals are in government buildings in Mexico. His murals are distinguished by great dynamism and compositional movement, monumental size and vigor, sculptural treatment of forms, and a limited color range that is subordinated to dramatic effects of light and shadow. He produced thousands of square feet of vivid wall paintings in which numerous social, political and industrial changes were portrayed from a left-wing perspective. For him, art and politics blended seamlessly together. He wasn't afraid to bring art to his political work.

He commonly used synthetic lacquer colors sprayed from paint guns in order to speed up the process of decorating large public buildings. He also did many easel paintings. In 1974 he died in Cuernavaca, his home for the last decade of his life.