The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This article is an interesting reflection by Ángel Zárraga on the art of the painter’s era, sent from Spain to the magazine Savia Moderna; at the time, he was also an amateur writer. He dedicates the article to two key figures that were beginning to decisively provoke a change in Mexican art during the crucial year of 1906: the painter Gerardo Murillo and the poet José Juan Tablada. As Fausto Ramírez noted in his studies on Mexican symbolism (El espejo simbolista [The Symbolic Mirror] published in catalog and partially reproduced online by EL UNIVERSAL/ Conflabulario on January 29, 2005), this text by Zárraga “is a compendium of symbolist ideas: the notion of art as ‘the expression of a spiritual state’; nature as a mere starting point for creative production; the need to build a pure personal style as a token of one’s ‘inner kingdom’; experimentation with the expressive potential of line, color and chiaroscuro; the interrelation of the arts in the pursuit of an analogous and expressive ideal, and the (implicit) application of music as the model par excellence (note the vocabulary used: ‘symphonize,’ ‘harmony.’)”
It is not a trivial point that Ángel Zárraga should dedicate his article to José Juan Tablada (1871-1945) and Gerardo Murillo—alias el Dr. Atl (1875-1964), given that they represented the most intelligent and acute perspectives for understanding Zárraga, a fine artist who was a testimony to the kind of artistic change then being conceived in Europe. Along with the other articles (also recorded in this database) on exhibitions that were mounted in Mexico during that year, this one reports on the synchronization between Mexican art and modernity that was then occurring. This was an era wherein academic values were beginning to be left behind along with the colonial past. Ángel Zárraga (1886-1946) was one of the most singular artists of the Mexican tradition and one of those (although never forgotten) that has been unfairly rediscovered. His painting ran counter to his contemporaries—both in the temporal and spatial sense, as well as with regard to the paradigms then in vogue within the Mexican and international art scenes; this prevented him from being included in the historical works that were meant to build nationalistic beliefs. In modern times it also prevented his inclusion as a key player within discourses that sought “to deconstruct” those same nationalisms.
His considerable fame in France did not spare him the envy, ill treatment, and skillful belittlement of others. Zárraga declined the invitation by the Minister of Education, José Vasconcelos (1882-1959), to join the Mexican muralist movement (he recused himself on grounds similar to those used by Gedovius), because he apparently already had multiple commitments in France; it could also be that he viewed Jose Vasconcelos’ appropriation and manipulation of the philosophy surrounding the Ateneo de la Juventud [Atheneum of Youth] with distrust. Zárraga perhaps paid dearly for his audacity in the end; nonetheless, his uniqueness continues to work in his favor, especially in the historical reinterpretation of his work. It also favors his writings on art, some quite splendid, as is the case with this article.