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In 1944, David Alfaro Siqueiros wrote an open letter to José Clemente Orozco in which he admitted that he could identify the different stages of his work. Siqueiros begins by saying that an artist’s work is not an individual creation but the expression of a group; he recalls that the first one they created coalesced around Dr. Atl; and he says that Mexican art is not Mexican because of the influence of pre-Hispanic or colonial art, but because of the Mexican Revolution, without which contemporary Mexican art would not exist. Siqueiros thinks that Dr. Atl influenced Orozco during his earliest stage of technical training, teaching him what he had learned from the socialist Enrico Fermi. José Clemente Orozco was a fellow contributor at La Vanguardia newspaper (published in Orizaba) and was also involved in the founding of the La Manigua group. The second stage was the mural era when, according to Siqueiros, Orozco was painting with “your mind and your work focused on the people.” The third was when Orozco realized the need for greater exposure and branched out into printmaking. The remaining stages (fourth, fifth, and so on) came later, by which time his works, which were taking refuge in skepticism, were generating different readings among his critics.  


David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974)—in this open letter to José Clemente Orozco on the occasion of his exhibition—refers to the movement that was created by the Mexican Revolution, and to the influence it exerted on theoretical instruction with its “Tres llamamientos de orientación actual a los pintores y escultores de la nueva generación americana” [Three Appeals for the Current Guidance of the New Generation of American Painters and Sculptures], the manifesto written in Barcelona (May, 1921) [see doc. no. 794607).
According to the myth, Siqueiros only appreciated José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) because of his involvement with the revolutionary movement; he even called him the first anti-fascist illustrator. He accused him of allowing his skepticism to obscure his message and letting his critics twist his meaning. The critics of Siqueiros were more aggressive with Luis Cardoza y Aragón (1901-1992) than they were with Justino Fernández (1901-1972). Siqueiros contemplates Orozco’s pictorial evolution and is confident he sees a trend toward abstract forms, an area that he too is beginning to explore. He admires the ambiguous quality of Orozco’s work that insulates him from political trends. 

Esther Acevedo
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City, Mexico
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional