Alfaro Siqueiros, David (1896–1974)

views updated

Alfaro Siqueiros, David (1896–1974)

David Alfaro Siqueiros (b. 29 December 1896; d. 6 January 1974), Mexican artist. Muralist, painter, printmaker, theoretician, labor organizer, soldier, and Communist Party leader, Siqueiros not only produced a sizable and influential body of political-artistic theory but was the most technically innovative of the tres grandes, the Big Three of the Mexican School, begun in 1922 with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. After returning in 1922 from studies in Europe, Siqueiros, along with Rivera and Xavier Guerrero, organized the Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors and began to publish the artist newspaper El Machete (1924).

In the search for materials and methods that could be used for outdoor murals that would be legible to spectators in transit, Siqueiros was the first artist, from 1932 on, to employ industrial synthetic paints (Duco or pyroxilyn, vinylite, etc.), an electric projector to transfer images onto the wall, and a spray gun (with stencils) to paint murals. He also used surfaces such as damp cement, masonite, and plywood, as well as more traditional grounds. He invented polyangular perspective, often on curved walls, to activate filmically a static surface. He also used blowups of documentary photographs as contemporary visual sources and esculto-pintura (sculptural painting). His painting style was dramatic and exuberant, even baroque, with simplified solid images thrusting forward, illusionistic destruc-tions and re-creations of space (floors, walls, and ceilings), and the building up of surfaces with granular materials.

Far from being merely a formalist innovator, Siqueiros employed these means to strengthen and make more powerful his political content, an approach he called pintura dialéctico-subversiva (dialectic-subversive painting). He championed monumental rather than easel painting, street murals, collective artistic teams, a scientific and psychological knowledge of artistic tools and forms, multiple and portable paintings rather than unique ones. He wrote to Anita Brenner, explaining that "what we seek is not only technique and style in art that sympathizes with revolution, but an art that itself is revolutionary."

See alsoArt: The Twentieth Century; Orozco, José Clemente; Rivera, Diego.


Bernard S. Myers, Mexican Painting in Our Time (1956).

Raquel Tibol, Siqueiros: Introductor de realidades (1961), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1969).

Mario De Micheli, Siqueiros (1968).

Orlando S. Suárez, Inventario del muralismo mexicano (1972).

Additional Bibliography

Folgarait, Leonard. Mural Painting and Social Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940: Art of the New Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Rochfort, Desmond. "The Sickle, the Serpent, and the Soil: History, Revolution, Nationhood, and Modernity in the Murals of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros." In Mary Kay Vaughn and Stephen E. Lewis, editors, The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.

Rochfort, Desmond. Mexican Muralists: Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros. London: Laurence King, 1993. Published in Spanish as Pintura mural mexicana: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros by Editorial Limusa, 1993.

                                   Shifra M. Goldman