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The art critic Jorge Juan Crespo de la Serna was very disappointed that Rufino Tamayo had not participated in the Bienal Interamericana de Pintura y Grabado [Inter-American Biennial of Painting and Printmaking], and felt it was a capricious decision on the part of the painter. Furthermore, he expressed his opinion about the paintings of José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. For Crespo de la Serna, Orozco’s paintings represented a tragic and “black picture” in which two concepts of life clashed with indomitable forces, most especially with regard to the topic of the conquest of the Americas—paintings that, with an ironic and mordant tone, feature the powerful weapons of the Spanish battling the weak, skeletal native people. Regarding Rivera, he found similarities with Cézanne and Picasso. He criticized the Siqueiros painting Determinación. Para una industria mexicana para México [Determination. For a Mexican Industry for Mexico], saying that it seemed as if it had been made in a hurry for a workers’ rally. But he did praise the rest of the work Siqueiros sent to the biennial. Siqueiros’s paintings, Crespo de la Serna says, were always caught between an almost photographic realism and a propensity for the abstract.


The artistic discourse of the 1950s built an apologetic history around the figure of the “Tres Grandes,” the three artistic giants. They were presented as the major exponents of Mexican art, the progenitors of a school that continued to exist in this country. Because of them, it was said, many painters had not wandered out onto the open road of abstraction. This centered and monopolist vision also became a museological discourse as well, giving these artists a very special and unique place, most particularly in international exhibitions. In addition, this image was developed and refined by art critics who carried out their analyses using the “Three Great Ones” as their reference point, paying no attention to “smaller” artists. This article by Crespo de la Serna is a good example of this tendency.

Ana María Torres : CEPE, U.N.A.M. / CURARE A. C.
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Courtesy of Ady Crespo Weber, Mexico City, Mexico
Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público