JOSÉ CLEMENTE OROZCO - PROMETHEUS, 1944 oil on canvas 73.5 × 93 cm - Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil
José Clemente Orozco was born on November 23 1883 in Ciudad Guzmán. The artist shows a great interest for the art practice since his early age and, after a short period at the School of Agricultural Science and Architecture, he enters the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City. At the age of 21, an accident with gunpowder causes the loss of his left hand but does not compromise his ability to paint. With the beginning of the Mexican Revolution the artist specializes in fiercely social and political satires inspired to his personal experiences. At the end of the 1920s, Orozco moves to New York where he meets the journalist Alma Reed, a prominent figure of the local art scene who strongly contributes to the promotion of both his career and, in general, of Mexican Muralism. In the United States, the painter receives several important commissions, including the Claremont Pomona College in California (1930) and the Dartmouth College in New Hampshire (1932).
The works presented in this exhibition epitomize the artist’s critical thinking on war brutalities that he had witnessed during the Mexican Revolution and during World War II. Furthermore, the exhibition features a series of artworks where the artist expresses his disenchantment towards the American metropolis after the Great Depression of 1929.
Unlike Siqueiros and Rivera, Orozco blatantly bears both the complexity and inner contradictions that defined the Mexican Revolution and the post-revolutionary regime. His works are often mockeries filled with military figures and corteges of ridiculous personages that metaphorically address the corruption of the Mexican political system. The artist uses a modern language defined by idealism, utopia, bitterness and sarcasm, and paints a variety of subjects encompassing history, education, progress, industrialization and democratic ideals, ultimately revealing his peculiar interpretation of socialist values. In his autobiography the artist describes the social changes that characterized the revolutionary period as: “a dramatic and barbaric masquerade” in which the population played the role of an ignorant protagonist.
After returning to Mexico in 1936 he realizes several murals for a number of important public spaces in which he increasingly manifests the signs of an inner conflict eventually resulting into an abstract concept of the form.
He dies on September 7 1949 in Mexico City.