Saturday, January 27, 2007

Art Blogging: Jose Clemente Orozco

Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) was a Mexican Social Realist painter, muralist, and printmaker. Social Realism is an artistic movement which protests societal injustice from a socialist or Marxist perspective. Originating in France, it spread to Latin America and reached its apex in the Soviet Union. Orozco was educated at the Academia San Carlos and composed an extensive body of works critical of industrialism and mass capitalism, depicting them as dehumanizing.

Zapata (1930; oil on canvas) at the Art Institute of Chicago. Orozco contributed to the apotheosis of Mexican Revolutionary General Emiliano Zapata with this depiction of his assassination. Zapata stands erect, unmoving, and stoic before his fate, like a hero should. In the foreground (and foretime), the peasants that he championed mourn his loss.

The Masses (1935; lithograph) at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Though a strong supporter of the Revolution, Orozco was at the same time very skeptical of it. He saw the intense violence of the period as more tragic than glorious.

Prometheus (1930; mural) at Pomona College. Orozco's Prometheus is not the symbol of optimism that was that of his contemporary Paul Manship, but a tragic figure representing all people of new ideas and dreams, both crushed by the gods above and ignored by the people below who benefit from their heroism.

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