Museum of Latin American Art Opens Siqueiros Paisajista / Siqueiros: Landscape Painter

The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) joins the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil (MACG), Mexico City, in presenting Siqueiros Paisajista / Siqueiros: Landscape Painter. Open through January 30, 2011.

This exhibition reveals the renowned Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros as a major landscape painter. The significance of the collaboration between MOLAA and the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles who has made this exhibition an official part of its Mexico 2010 celebration which commemorates Mexico’s Bicentennial of Independence and the Centennial of its Revolution. “It is a privilege to celebrate Mexico’s Bicentennial with an exhibition of this caliber which reveals a lesser known side of one the great Mexican masters of 20th-century art,” said Richard P. Townsend, President and CEO of MOLAA. “We are especially pleased to show a number of Siqueiros’ most important landscape paintings drawn from the Carrillo Gil’s magnificent collection–examples that confirm his brilliance as a landscape painter as well as a muralist.”

This exhibition, the first of its kind to be presented anywhere, includes approximately half of the 150 landscape paintings that Siqueiros produced during his lifetime. “This is the most significant exhibition of Siqueiros to be seen in the last ten years,” stated MACG Director and exhibition curator Itala Schmelz. “It is the result of more than three years of collaboration that included the precedent-setting gathering of artwork from more than 20 different museum and private collections in Mexico and the U.S., scholarly research by Christopher Fulton and additional research by a team of nine talented catalogue essayists.” Featuring a selection of the most important landscape paintings and drawings, the exhibition reveals Siqueiros’ dynamic vision of futuristic cities, allegorical places and the environment. Utilizing an explosive color palette and experimental techniques, the landscape imagery is charged with the emotions of creation and destruction always present in the art of Siqueiros. “Traditionally landscape paintings offer views of idyllic vistas, but these landscapes offer scenes of a troubled world,” said MOLAA Senior Curator, Cynthia Mac Mullin. “The gathered works poignantly emphasize Siqueiros’ concern for humanity’s inability to serve its fellow men. Although several paintings are about the past, such as The End of the World from 1936 painted in response to the Spanish Civil War and The Explosion of Hiroshima of 1955, protesting the inhumane ending World War II, they are still relevant today, mirroring humanity’s constant engagement with war and destruction.”

About the artist and his techniques

As a prominent painter and political activist, David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896 -1974) was an integral member of the Mexican School of Painting along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. He continues to be viewed as one of the most important Mexican artists of the 20th century although his artistic influence spread far beyond Mexico’s borders.

Siqueiros organized artists in both Mexico and abroad to promote the idea of creating collective works. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the protection of Mexico’s Secretary of Public Education, he created his first decorative mural. He advocated using art as a political tool and thought that mural art should be used as a public service for el pueblo (the community). As an active member of the Mexican Communist Party, Siqueiros fought as a colonel in the Mexican Revolution and again in the Spanish Civil War. He also fought for the rights of laborers and on several occasions his political activities put him in jail and even led to exile.

Siqueiros passionately declared his artistic and political views in public, arguing endlessly at conferences and in his writing. Although Siqueiros is represented in the historic canon of modern Mexican art as one of the leading proponents of public art for social action–largely due to his mural painting–it was through his easel painting that he studied an extensive variety of techniques and styles that allowed him to examine pictorial space, composition, light, shadow and color.

In addition to his exploration of techniques and styles, Siqueiros constantly experimented with new tools and materials. Of utmost importance is the technical aspect of the works of art included in this exhibition. After discovering various types of industrial materials produced in the United States in the 1930s, Siqueiros’ produced most of his easel works with uncommon materials which include Duco paint, a DuPont brand name for pyroxilin paint, a tough and resilient type of nitro-cellulose paint manufactured for the automotive industry. Also utilized was vinylite paint, a type of lacquer with a vinyl base used for easel paintings or as a primer for mural works. Rarely working on canvas, Siqueiros preferred to paint on various types of composite wood surfaces such as Masonite, because of its low cost, ease of preparation, durability and receptiveness to pyroxilin and acrylic paints. The use of these industrial materials, not commonly used as “fine art” materials, again emphasizes the radical nature with which Siqueiros produced his art.

About Dr. Alvaro Carrillo Gil (1898 -1974)
Dr. Alvar Carrillo Gil was born in Opichén, Yucatan. Aside from a brilliant career as a medical doctor, he received public recognition as an extraordinary art collector. In 1942 he began a friendship with José Clemente Orozco and soon after with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. His collection began with the acquisition of the drawing La Chole by Orozco. He soon became the foremost collector of Orozco’s work and began to acquire works by Rivera and Siqueiros as well. By the end of the 1940s Carrillo Gil had amassed one of the most important collections of Mexican art from the first half of the 20th century and had become an active participant in the intellectual and cultural life of Mexico City. Because of the importance of Carrillo Gil’s extraordinary collection, Mexico won the International Prize in the XXV Biennial of Venice, in 1949.

In 1969, Carrillo Gil entrusted the well known Mexican architect Augusto H. Alvarez with the project of designing a museum in Mexico City that would house his entire art collection. In 1972, Carrillo Gil and his wife, Carmen de Carrillo Gil Tejero, donated the collection and the museum building to the people of Mexico. In August of 1974 the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil opened to the public.

The role in this exhibition played by the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil is particularly meaningful as its founder, Dr. Alvar Carrillo Gil, was not only a physician, entrepreneur, painter and art dealer, but a lifelong collector of Siqueiros’ work, sharing a friendship with the artist that spanned more than 30 years. Through his association with Siqueiros, Carrillo Gil gathered one of the largest collections of works by Siqueiros, more than 45 easel paintings. Eight of the most significant landscapes in the exhibition are drawn from the MACG collection.

Siqueiros Paisajista / Siqueiros: Landscape Painter is organized by the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, in association with the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California and in collaboration with the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and the MACG Friends Association. It is curated by Itala Schmelz and Alberto González with research support by Christopher Fulton and America Juarez. MOLAA’s presentation is coordinated by Cynthia MacMullin.

At MOLAA the exhibition is presented by Bank of America and Wells House Hospice. Additional funding is provided by the Robert Gumbiner Foundation, Verizon Wireless, Arts Council for Long Beach, City of Long Beach, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles and the MOLAA Annual Exhibition Fund. Media support is provided by ABC7, KCRW (89.9 FM), La Opinion, LA Weekly, Los Angeles magazine and Telemundo.

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