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.
In this text, José Clemente Orozo marks his distance from the ideological and aesthetic positions of either Diego Rivera or David Alfaro Siqueiros. Without mentioning them by name, Orozco criticizes the political orientation that characterized the mural work of Rivera and Siqueiros. Even more, Orozco declares that Mexican Muralism should not have any social or ideological function whichever, rather it should be exclusively “artistic”. Orozco attacks the didactic intentions of certain individuals and institutions, in this case the New York Museum of Modern Art, that try to educate the public—either naively or pretentiously—on the analysis and dissemination of Modern art, and abstract art in particular.
José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949) prepared this text at the time he was finishing work on the portable work Dive Bomber (1940) for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. This commissioned work was created during the run of the great exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, which took place at MoMA in the spring of 1940.
Alfred H. Barr Jr. (1902–1981), in his role as the founder and director of the museum (1929–33), asked Orozco to write this text as a commentary on his recently finished mural. It seems that Barr’s interest was governed by a double motivation. He was concerned that the general public should comprehend and seek out Modern art. From his point of view, the way to achieve this was through clear, simple, and direct explanations. However, Barr was aware that exhibition of Mexican art at MoMA was motivated by a diplomatic objective: to develop the bonds of friendship between Mexico and the United States within the context of World War II. Granting a voice to some of the participants—in this case Orozco—was a way to fulfill such a goal.The paradox of the situation was that Orozco held an adverse opinion of didactic explanations of art and he was also an artist who was not interested in becoming involved with politics. As he was unable to reject Barr’s invitation, the published text is characterized as much by skepticism (embedded in the values at stake) as by a questioning of the didactic and political with regard to Modern art.