Lot 65
  • 65


250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • David Alfaro Siqueiros
  • El Pedregal
  • Signed Siqueiros and dated 54 (lower right)
  • Pyroxylin on masonite
  • 39 3/8 by 48 1/8 in.
  • 100 by 122.2 cm
  • Painted in 1954.


Private Collection, Mexico

Private Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above in January 1957) 

Thence by descent 


Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, The U.S. Collects Pan American Art, 1959

Catalogue Note

In a letter penned in 1936 about his experimentation with Duco (Duco is the manufacturer of a low viscosity version of pyroxylin or cellulose nitrate used as a commercial lacquer for household items and the automotive industry) at his New York City Experimental Workshop, David Alfaro Siqueiros stated: It is about the use of accident in painting… a special method of absorption of two or more superimposed colors that infiltrate one another to produce the most magical fantasies and forms that the human mind can imagine…Something comparable only to the geological formation of the earth, to the polychrome veins and multi forms of the mountains…This organized thing that emerges from the mystery of who know what laws, terrifying in their depth…Above all a tumultuous dynamism, of a tempest, of a natural and social revolution that at times causes terror. (letter to María Asúnsolo, New York, April 6, 1936, reproduced in Raquel Tibol, Palabras de Siqueiros, Mexico City, 1996, p. 130) 

Although painted eighteen years later, El Pedregal evokes Siqueiros’s dynamic description of his innovative and foundational painting process, which influenced the drip technique of Jackson Pollock, a member of the Workshop. In El Pedregal Siqueiros uses his fascination with the modern material and his experimentation with its accidental effects to conjure the harsh rocky landscape formulated by the lava fields of the Pedregal (volcano rock), a vast territory to the south of Mexico City. Uninhabited for the first half of the twentieth century, this land of bandits and migrants also encompassed the area that contained the oldest pyramid in Central Mexico at the pre-Columbian site of Cuicuilco.  Siqueiros had featured the terrain of the Pedregal in his collaboration with Colombian photographer Leo Matiz in the 1940s. It was during that period that this craggy area was beginning to be developed by modernist architects building middle-class and luxury homes (Jardines del Pedregal). More significantly, Siqueiros painted this work precisely when he was spending much time in the area. Between 1952 and 1956 he contributed to the decoration of the new Ciudad Universitária (University City) campus with several polychromed bas-relief murals for the exterior of the university’s rectory. Unlike other artists who also depicted the Pedregal, Siqueiros capitalizes on pyroxlin’s volatile associations to express not the inert rock, but its origins as a forceful, exploding volcano (Pyroxylin is chemically related to nitrocellulose, or gun cotton, which is an explosive.) Vibrant colors coagulate on the surface here to create a wondrous fiery mix. In Siqueiros’ hands, medium, process, and iconography unite to evoke the tumult of nature as a metaphor for social revolution.

Anna Indych-López
2018-2019 Stuart Z. Katz Professor of the Humanities and the Arts
The City College of New York, CUNY
Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Art
Ph.D. Program in Art History, The Graduate Center, CUNY