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Derecho de propiedad

Derecho de propiedad
signed and dated 'Francisco Corzas 67' (lower left)
oil on canvas
80 ¼ x 66 in. (203.8 x 167.6 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Galeria Juan Martin, Mexico City.
Iturralde Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above.
By descent from the above to the present owner.
G. Mora Tavares, Francisco Corzas, Mexico, Petroleos Mexicanos, 1987, no. 113 (illustrated, p. 108).
São Paulo, IX São Paulo Biennial, Mexico, 1967, no. 14, p. 334.
New York, Center for Inter-American Relations, Young Mexicans, November 1971 - January 1972, no. 5 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Corzas emerged in the 1950s as part of a group of young artists that defined itself in opposition to the Mexican School and its long-dominant mode of muralism. In the age of La Ruptura, the term coined by Octavio Paz to describe this generational shift, Corzas and others rejected what had become an increasingly institutionalized nationalism in favor of greater aesthetic freedoms and universal, humanist themes. Artists such as José Luis Cuevas, Manuel Felguérez, and Lilia Carrillo pursued myriad and often idiosyncratic directions within abstraction and figuration, drawing upon sources ranging from Old Master paintings to pre-Hispanic cosmology. Like many of Mexico’s younger artists, Corzas trained first at La Esmeralda, under María Izquierdo and Juan Soriano among others; he left in 1956 for Italy, where he studied fresco painting and took in the history of Western art, finding affinities from the Renaissance through latter-day Romanticism. Working between Europe and Mexico during the 1960s and 1970s, he devoted himself to the human figure, probing the expressive potential of the nude and of (self-)portraiture.
“They seem to present their observations of the world as strange versions of history narrated through painting,” remarked curator Luis Carlos Emerich of Corzas and fellow Ruptura artists Rafael Coronel and Alberto Gironella. “Thus, their canvases are like a retelling of the history of human dignity, particularly in eighteenth-century Europe. These new visions of the vanitas genre comment on the brevity of life and the transitory nature of the medium employed to express it. Painting is conceived as an act of desperation in the attempt to capture the beauty of its mortality.” A fugitive quality percolates through many of Corzas’s paintings, including Derecho de propiedad and the similar Sobrevivientes (1967), whose titles further conjure a sense of danger and volatility. Casting back to the Old Masters—late Goya, Rembrandt, Velázquez—Corzas imbues his subjects, particularly the female nude, with visceral and possessive energy, as Emerich describes:
"With the stance of a perverse, hedonistic poet, Corzas portrays the human figure in the manner of the Flemish School. Flesh decays, but the sublimation of lust is eternal. Nude adolescents and adults offer their inviolate flesh to personages taken from the merchants in Rembrandt’s portraits, for example, in interior settings in a declining light (twilight, night). Corzas takes lascivious joy in the imminent putrefaction of the body, not because of age, but as the consequence of man’s libidinous nature. This artist’s decadence, sadistic in a sense, is marked by a certain preciousness; he takes pleasure in an academic portrayal of secret, dying things, the dark, the erotic, and the guilty" (“La Ruptura: The Turning Point of the 1950s,” Latin American Art 2, no. 4, Fall 1990, pp. 72-3).
“I consider [the nude] a language,” Corzas reflected, acknowledging sources from Velázquez to Modigliani. “What I look for are the unexpected poses of a woman; what I try to reproduce is the attitude of repose within her body” (in C. Pacheco, “Francisco Corzas: La expresión es la mano,” La luz de México: entrevistas con pintores y fotógrafos, Mexico City, 1995, pp. 152-53). A double portrait, Derecho de propiedad depicts a male subject—suggestively the artist himself, in typically anachronistic dress—between a luminous female nude and a delicately-featured deer, just visible in the foreground. Their bodies appear almost as hallucinations, silhouetted against a dramatic landscape that burns red against the dark and swirling expanse behind them. Her face is in shadow, her gaze angling away from her interlocutor; his eyes, too, peer into the distance, the woman—property or otherwise—conjured perhaps as much in his imagination as in the flesh.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

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