Sunday, August 2, 2015

Arnold Belkin

Serdan brothers, the struggle continues
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Arnold Belkin (1930-1992), born in Calgary, Alberta, and raised in Vancouver was a Jewish-Mexican painter. He has been referred to as "the Canadian son of Mexican muralism". Throughout his life, he was committed to presenting humanity's most controversial and sometimes painful experiences. He was never interested in producing murals or easel works that could be considered mere diversion. He played a fundamental role in the history of painting in Mexico.

When he was 14 years old, he discovered Diego Rivera and Mexican Muralism in the pages of "Time Magazine". The magazine showcased a few of Rivera's works, documenting Rivera's commitment to the figure, which made a great impact on Belkin. At the age of 15, while a student at the Vancouver School of Art, he won a competition for his painting, "Workers on a Streetcar". This early work can be considered a preamble to his oeuvre. His art carried seeds of rebellion from a young age, and throughout his life, he maintained an interest in social issues and the rights of the poor and underprivileged classes. This interest, along with his concern regarding the abuse of power by the upper class permeated his artistic output throughout his career. In 1947, after finishing high school, he moved to Mexico to further his study of painting. By the early 1960s, he established himself as the angry young man of mural painting. He believed history was a mirror of the future and his imagery reflected this belief.

In 1968 he went to live and work in New York City, to seek inspiration abroad. While in New York, he was asked to do a mural as part of a larger effort to rebuild a playground in Hell's Kitchen (at 45th and 46th Streets). This resulted in the young people of the community being very proud of the finished product. His easel paintings also enjoyed much success during his time in New York. His paintings sold well at the galleries. His artistic output was consumed with images and ideas of the future and utopia. In spite of his successes in New York City, he wanted to be a part of Mexican history and culture. He returned to Mexico in 1976 and became a citizen there in 1981. He died in Mexico City in 1992 of lung cancer, perhaps caused by years of using acrylic paints with an airbrush. During and following his life he was treated as a celebrity in art circles throughout Mexico and much of Latin America.