This painting hails from the collection of Paul Antebi, the Israeli chemical engineer who was a great friend of David Alfaro Siqueiros; of remarkable provenance--as Antebi was a great art connoisseur and collector of important works by the Maestro, particularly works dating to his imprisonment between the years 1960 and 1964.
Siqueiros arrived in Los Angeles in 1932 as a political exile accompanied by the great love of his life, the Uruguayan poet Blanca Luz Brum and her young son. There, among the celebrities he met was Josef von Sternberg, the movie director of such films as The Blue Angel and Blonde Venus, who almost immediately introduced him to the John Reed Clubs, a leftist organization closely allied with the Communist Party. Intended to foster leftist talents, the clubs were hubs of cultural and political activities and members often spoke out against social injustice and racial discrimination. That is why two of the three exterior murals executed by Siqueiros during the months he lived in Los Angeles, dealt with that subject matter. In the first one, Mítin Obrero, a black leader with a small child in his arms leads his companions, whereas in the second one, América Tropical, in the midst of a landscape of pre-Columbian ruins, the artist painted a Mexican worker crucified under the eagle of dollar coins.
Hacia la Cumbre! is dedicated to the struggle against racial discrimination, as the artist himself wrote on the back of the painted canvas: "Homage to the black people in their present struggle." It is one of a series of studies painted between 1961 and 1962 which were purchased by Paul Antebi which address the issues of racism and colonialism. The series includes, according to América Juárez, from the archives at Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros: El Colonialismo (Persecución de los negros), a folding screen; El Colonialismo (Secuestro de los negros); Ascenso del hombre en el paisaje; and Davidcito (Niño en negro).
Hacia la Cumbre! (Toward the Summit) depicts an image that evokes the soldaderas (women who accompanied the troops) during the Mexican Revolution, also painted by Orozco in the 1920s. Clearly, this work is a precursor of the many paintings devoted to depicting crowds of women, especially mothers with children in their arms that would later appear on the mural cycle La Marcha de la Humanidad (March of Humanity) at the Poliforum, 1967; Siqueiros prepared numerous studies such as the present one, while incarcerated in his small prison cell. Others include works such as Nueva Aurora, Huyendo del Terror, and of other important paintings like La Huída. Although a small work, Siqueiros conceived the painting in monumental terms. It is a study in diagonal composition advocated by Futurists and influenced by the expressionism of José Clemente Orozco. As well, it is an appropriation of the composition of La Trinchera, the mural panel at the Museo de San Ildefonso.
Siqueiros's composition consists of a dramatic diagonal in which three female figures are arranged dynamically in a sequence. It calls to mind the dancers of the mural at the Hospital de la Raza, especially a black and white study painted in 1952. The three figures in the work are depicted in profile--not from the rear, and the movement of their arms is reminiscent of Siqueiros's work, Accidente en la Mina, 1931, where the artist included the railroad tracks just as Gino Severini had used frequently in order to depict motion within the scene. Regarding the study, the women's feet appear to move within a rail, a motion merely suggested by short diagonal strokes.
In Hacia la Cumbre! Siqueiros builds up the movement of the three figures that rise from the dark earth, appearing to visually move based on the motions of the opening and crossing of arms. Such a motion is perceived from behind the curly heads of the figures and their backs. This movement is perceived from the coordinated running strides of their legs, as if propelled by a telluric energy that drives them from dance into flight. They march amidst a dramatic spectacle of mountains and volcanic craters, rushing to reach the luminous horizon, almost white in the distance.
Irene Herner, 2008.