José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949)
- José Clemente Orozco
- signed lower right
Delphic Studios (Alma Reed), New York (1930-32)
Charles Recht (by 1934)
La Porte, Indiana, Civic Auditorium, Exhibition of Lithographs, Mural Studies, Photographs of Frescoes, Paintings and Drawings by José Clemente Orozco, April 6-29, 1934, no. 8
San Diego, San Diego Museum of Art; Hanover, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College; Mexico City, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, José Clemente Orozco in the United States 1927-1934, March 9-April 13, 2003, p. 257, no. 273, illustrated in color
Alma Reed, José Clemente Orozco, Delphic Studios/William Edwin Rudge, New York, 1932, n.n., illustrated
Alma Reed, Orozco, New York, Oxford University Press, 1956, plate 9, illustrated
Of the body of easel paintings Orozco executed during his New York years (1927-1934), Mannikins may be seen within those works that have been classified as mythological (inspired by Greek drama or tragedy) or possessing a quasi-surrealist or imaginative quality due the suspension of reality. The art historian Dawn Ades suggests that the roots of this work may be more accurately found in the return to figuration of the 1920s—the so-called “post-expressionism” or “magic realism,” a term coined in 1925 by the German art critic Franz Roh to denote the new objectivity in painting or rather the emphasis on expressing what is magical about the normal world around us. Orozco was familiar with Roh’s writings as were many Latin American artists from the late 1920s onwards when the German critic’s essays were translated by the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset.(1)
Notwithstanding Ades’ analysis and Orozco’s own disdain of the surrealists, this phatamasgoric scene comprised of headless bodies, banal objects, and architectural fragments strewn or floating against an indecipherable background or desolate landscape recalls some of the surrealists’ familiar motifs as well as the metaphysical worlds created by such artists as Giorgio de Chirico and Filippo de Pisis. Although Orozco’s work bears no relation to the strain of surrealism preoccupied with automatism or the world of dreams, like de Chirico and de Pisis, Orozco’s painting suggests a dystopian vision vis à vis the promise and disillusionment of modernism. Painted in1930 shortly after Orozco returned to New York in the fall of 1929, Mannikins may also be seen within the immediate context of the aftermath of the stock market crash of November 1929 and the profound economic, political, and social turmoil that ensued.
(1) See Dawn Ades, “Orozco and Modern (Easel Painting): New York, 1927-1934” in José Clemente Orozco in the United States, 1927-1934 (Hanover, New Hampshire, New York, and London: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College and W.W. Norton & Company), pp. 250-254.