Mexican Muralists of the 20th Century


RELIGIOUS UTTERANCES – art of faith introduces the reader to humanity’s historic relationship between art and faith. This daily series of articles examines the interlacing of art and faith from across the Anglican Communion. The title of the series, Religious Utterances, comes from systematic theologian Dr. Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, whose work seeks “a recovery of humanity’s religious utterances through art.”


Five in a series: A Mexican Muralist in East LA

Theme: Social Commentary

David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the great Mexican muralists of the 20th century, painted América Tropical in 1932 on the second story exterior south wall of a large brick building known as the Italian Hall—one of the structures that today make up the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument in downtown Los Angeles. (Source: Getty Research Institute)

Siqueiros’ murals showed strong sympathy for Mexican workers through his use of symbol, scale and setting. Many of Siqueiros’s murals reflect his political views as a member of Mexico’s Communist Party. The vivid colors, contorted figures, and sculpted surfaces of his murals help convey the artist’s urgent desire for political change. (Source: Encarta) Within a few months of the mural’s unveiling in 1932, it was partially painted over with white paint. By 1952 the Siqueiros mural América Tropical and the controversy it sparked was completely whitewashed.

In 2002, the City of Los Angeles began working closely with the J Paul Getty Trust to restore and conserve the mural in its original location in East Los Angeles. Images of the restoration project can be seen here on the GRI website. At a press conference unveiling the restored mural in 2006 Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa remarked: “The people of the city of Los Angeles will finally be able to view this cultural treasure long obscured from sight. The mural, while controversial in its time, will allow adults and children of all ages to learn about and appreciate the diverse history of this city, the importance of freedom of artistic expression and the origins of the muralist movement in this city.” The Mayor added, “While people can agree or disagree with the message, what’s important is that it was art, and art, while sometimes controversial, is important – because what it does is to lift the soul.” (Source: Mark Vallen)

On View: América Tropical, mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros. 1932. Original mural size: ~80’w x 18’h.

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