Dark and deep
But Orozco’s works were always the most striking. His paintings reminded me of Mark Rothko and his thirty ‘Seagram murals’, a series of works that were intended for a restaurant inside New York’s famous Seagram building. These dark, deep-reddish, abstract paintings take over every room they occupy.
I always visit the Mark Rothko room when I am inside the Tate Modern in London, admiring the nine paintings hanging there from the Seagram series. You can just sit and get carried away by the doom these paintings exude. You can experience the same when you visit Guadalajara, the place where most of Orozco’s masterworks can be found.
Murals as history lessons
1934: Palacio de Gobierno
The first big commission was for the Government Palace, next to the cathedral. As with most of his works, nothing on the outside of the building suggests the exceptional paintings that can be found inside.
But after you have signed in at the entrance (the palace can be visited for free), your first turn to the right transports you into another world. The main staircase is covered by Lucha Social (Social Struggle). It veers in all directions and shows Father Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s father of independence, wave with a torch to wave off shadowy figures that apparently represent slavery and oppression.
Hidalgo is also celebrated in the second – even bigger – mural in the Chamber of Deputies, which looks like a semi-circular parliament hall. In this painting he abolishes slavery – but with a blood-colored stroke. Remember how sceptic Orozco was about the human cost of the independence struggle?
1935-1937: University murals
1939: Hospicio Cabanas
Still not fed up with this Mexican master? You can find his paintings in the Casa Taller in Guadalajara as well of course. In Mexico City the Museo Carillo Gil also has lots of his paintings. Same goes for the Museum of Contemporary Art in CDMX. Finally, you can find murals of Orozco in Mexico City amongst others in the National Teachers College and on the third floor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Katharsis (Catharsis), depicting the conflict between humankind’s ‘social’ and ‘natural’ aspects).
[…] we landed in Guadalajara at one point, and I saw those murals, which exist as-described in the book in an old, small Spanish cathedral. It was one of those encounters that at the time I didn’t realize would be so formative, but over […]