Juan Soriano (Mexican 1920-2006)
Juan Soriano (Mexican 1920-2006)

Hormigas y amapolas

Juan Soriano (Mexican 1920-2006)
Hormigas y amapolas
oil on canvas
23¼ x 34 in. (60 x 86 cm.)
Painted in 1959.
Colección Antonio Souza, Mexico City.
By descent to the present owners.

Lot Essay

Juan was not a thinker, still less a systematic thinker, but he was a subtle observer and a voracious reader...He was nervous, restless, a compendium of gestures drawn from many of the magical animals he had depicted in his painting...
These words of the historian Enrique Krauze invite us to contemplate the work of a Soriano who, in mimesis of nature, transforms himself into a creature half-bird half-fish. He plays with the earth, the water, and the wind. He reserves the element of fire for his palette. Painstakingly observant of nature, the artist undergoes a totemic transformation into the animal he is depicting or the hunter who lies in wait for it.

Visual labyrinths which, though they explore abstraction, never entirely abandon figuration. Slippery fish can be made out, flying birds, the slits of a cat's eyes, geometrized monkeys, tremulous squirrels, or--as in this case--ants embraced by hallucinogenic poppies.

In his paintings Soriano delights in reds, which allude to the last phase of the alchemical process whereby base matter is transformed into gold. An early rebellion against aesthetic and ideological pressures; a fascination with popular sensibilities and their colors, attitudes, and forms; transcending the limits of post-revolutionary Mexico, a pressing need for new references.

"Soriano flies, Soriano navigates," wrote Octavio Paz, dazzled by the visual metaphors of Ants and Poppies (Hormigas y amapolas). The commentary led Antonio Souza to add the work to his own collection. Juan had already exhibited at Souza's gallery in 1954, following his first stay in Greece. Paz would define the new Soriano in a single word: metamorphosis.

Antonio Souza--a Spanish-born painter and mentor to the dissident artists--opened his indispensable Galería de los Contemporáneos at Génova 61-2 in 1956. The gallery became better known by the name of its owner, since there was already a Galería de Arte Contemporáneo, under the direction of Lola Álvarez Bravo, at Amberes 12. Both establishments were in Mexico City's famous Zona Rosa, or Pink Zone, a neighborhood with reminiscences of the Porfirian period, frequented by the painters of La Ruptura.

Souza's persistence and the quality of the artists who exhibited with him attracted the attention of both public and critics. The gallery became, in the words of the Raquel Tibol, a new space for new art.
Souza conceived his space as a sophisticated cosmopolitan venue for masters such as Gerzso, Esqueda, Sanabria, Doniz, and even the now famous Francisco Toledo, among many others. It was there that Soriano exhibited for the first time his experiments with near abstraction, leading Octavio Paz to write: It was his second birth as a painter a burst of light, colors, and incandescent forms. Passion and poetry.

In 1961 Juan Soriano decided these works should be included in the Second Inter-American Biennial of Mexico. The magnificent canvas Diana, Huntress (Diana Cazadora- lot 44) was one of the fifty works exhibited at the showing.

In this way Soriano invented and re-invented himself in an oscillation between figuration and abstraction. Deconstructions on canvas like great fans of light, through which La Ruptura found a place for Mexican art in the international panorama. Strength, character, and universality break out simultaneously from these two works, windows open onto the interior world of the artist, on the borderline between the conscious and the unconscious in the private logbook of twentieth-century Mexico.

Alfonso Miranda Márquez, Director, Soumaya Museum, Mexico City.

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