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David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexican 1896-1974)
David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexican 1896-1974)

Sol Mar-Tierra

David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexican 1896-1974)
Sol Mar-Tierra
signed and dated 'SIQUEIROS 71' (lower right) signed again and titled 'Siqueiros, SOL MAR-TIERRA' (on the reverse)
Pyroxilin on board
47¾ x 82¼ in. (121.3 x 209.5 cm.)
Painted in 1971.

Lot Essay

The subject matter for this painting does not coincide literally with its title; it is part of the series of studies Siqueiros executed between 1967 and 1971 in his Tallera as his Cuernavaca Studio in Morelos was referred to. There, he was assisted by a team of painters, including the highly regarded Mario Orozco Rivera. These studies were made in preparation for his most ambitious mural cycle, La Marcha de la Humanidad (Humankind on the March), designed for the Poliforum Cultural Siqueiros which encompasses over 5,000 profusely painted square meters. But, there is, in effect, a thematic or artistic continuity in time: victims and executioners of an unjust society are interwoven into an endless march. The gigantic mural at the Poliforum, like each of the myriad studies, including this one, represents humankind on the march as a dynamic artistic accomplishment. This process begins to appear in the work of the Siqueiros in remarkable paintings like El Accidente en la Mina, from 1931 (The Accident in the Mine, MUNAL Collection, Mexico City).

In 1936, in his Manhattan studio, Siqueiros spoke about one of his studies or drafts, which has been lost. It was No Más, an important precedent of his mural cycle Retrato de la Burguesía (Portrait of the Bourgeoisie), which occupied the stairwell of the Electrician's Union Building in Mexico City. In the mural from 1939 he depicted the horrors of fascism and the menace of the war that was to follow. From New York he would write that his study "depicts an immense crowd of millions upon millions of men that head out in the same direction from all the points on earth bent on stopping the advance of war, already underway."

At the Poliforum and, consequently, in studies such as this one, rather than transmitting a realistic vision, the painted images represent variations of the most extreme expressionistic dynamism in the career of the artist--an inhabited universe writhing in the baroque intensity of its own movement. This painting is almost abstract--it displays the pure artifice, the technique and the plastic conception of movement, appropriated from the painting of the futurists and transformed by the motion of cinematography.

The difference between cinema and these versions of painted cinema by Siqueiros, is that the screen's painted surface--becomes activated (losing its synthetic form, unraveling it in its very movement) so that the viewer seems to move. The viewer, Siqueiros asserted creates or is the "switch" that sets off the cinematic mechanism structuring the work according to a poly-angular methodology.

This method, which has Renaissance origins--but is overwhelmingly baroque--was a constant during Siqueiros's entire life. It began, during his stay in Los Angeles in 1932, when he used photography and film projection in order to paint exterior murals. This method, advanced by Siqueiros, was inspired by large, spectacular graphic advertisements, and by the language of film animation. Siqueiros experimented with this concept of dynamic space, using as his springboard an abstract grid of lines and platforms, concentric circles and colored angles that became stage sets designed to prop up figures that, as in this case, became almost unrecognizably abstract by being integrated into the flow of the over all composition.

Painted over an explosive red background, straight from the artist's very first Accidentes Controlados (Controlled Accidents) and his well-known apocalyptic paintings such as Fin del Mundo (End of the World, Private Collection) and Suicidio Colectivo (Collective Suicide), (MoMA, New York), Siqueiros began using industrial paint (pyroxilene) between 1936 and 1937 at his legendary Siqueiros Experimental Workshop in Manhattan's 14th Street--a universe made up by concentric circles of fire unfolds; a vague transparent rocket, implodes over them. Infused with dynamic mechanism, akin to a speeding train, the sequence of braided anatomies becomes a coordinated cinematic effect.

Only the great dynamic perspectives from the 1970s comic strip artists who drew super heroes and heroines, can compare in mastery to these lines; ironically they derive from similar cultural identities and also share the same aesthetic sentiment about dynamic movement and the larger- than-life art history as it unfolded in the twentieth century--albeit, from opposite sides of the political spectrum during the Cold War.

Irene Herner, Tepoztlán, Morelos. March 25, 2008.

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