David Alfaro Siqueiros - Latin America New York Wednesday, May 24, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, California (acquired directly from the artist in 1950)
    Private Collection, Miami

    We are grateful to Dr. Irene Herner Reiss for her kind assistance in cataloguing this work.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since the end of the nineteenth century, the figure of the tehuana in Mexican art, inspired by the women of Juchitán in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the State of Oaxaca, is a formal and mythical construction of femininity that is promoted within the artistic field and outside of it by the governing nationalist, revolutionary policies.

    It is a subject matter in art that expresses with clarity the process of mestizaje as the discovery of the legitimate Mexican identity. It is of Zapotec origin, developed by the metrics of modernism. The clothing that the women of Juchitán wear, which is beautiful and sophisticated, is made of Western threads and materials that are integrated into a structure of Pre-Hispanic bearing. Nineteenth century travelers compared these women of Juchitán with gypsies and with Isis, the Egyptian goddess of love, and as Claudio Linati (1828) did, drew them as sensual women whose clothing allows one to see their breasts. Rivera also painted them in this way.

    The artists that started muralism, called together by José Vasconcelos, built a diverse and countless collection with the subject matter of the tehuanas, as representatives of Mexican feminine identity. They achieved this with imagination and avant-gardism.

    Tehuana women from the coast of Oaxaca are famous for being happy and independent, and as women who control their own sexuality. They do not represent the delicate maidens of pictorial romanticism, instead they recover the vigor of their fertility, sculpted with the soil of Mesoamerica, in the precise way Tina Modotti photographed them.

    Almost all of the modern Mexican artists painted them. Each one of them in their own style: Zárraga, Montenegro, Covarrubias, Tamayo, Frida Kahlo, María Izquierdo, Carlos Orozco Romero and Diego Rivera, who painted them many times. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Saturnino Herrán, who was one of Siqueiros’ most important mentors, painted a tehuana woman as a dramatic figure with masculine features, wrapped in white cloud-like frills.

    In 1949 Siqueiros contributed two paintings with this subject matter. They are similar and were created almost at the same time, between November and December of that year. In both cases he depicts choreographic scenes. In the present lot, the movement of the six tehuanas is a slow dance, their placement in space is precise, almost geometric. Their colored skirts and their painted huipiles are very synthetic and at the same time are composed of intertwined colors and brushstrokes that provide volume and rhythm. Two of the dancers are with their backs to the viewer, one is in profile, one can be seen at a distance, but there are two that approach and look directly at the viewer. It looks as if the women are on top of an invisible mechanism that drives them from the frills in their skirts. Years later, the frills on the same skirts will become truly dynamic whirlpools in the studies and the mural Siqueiros will execute for the Castle of Chapultepec in Mexico City. While painting the dancers of this site-specific work, he will have in mind the famous dancer Gatita Blanca, “La Conesa”, who danced for presidents and artists alike during the 1910 Mexican Revolution, as the sound of bullets echoed through the streets. The Juchiteca women in this painting do not wear frill, headdresses on their heads, as Frida Kahlo wears one in her self-portrait Diego en mis pensamientos (1943). With their braids tied on their heads, the figures in Siqueiros’ painting wear spectacular robes with flowers, bouquets made of colorful explosions. Their arms held high are intertwined, while they are separated by the rhythm of the tune. The landscape is almost abstract, evoking the tropics, the beach and the turquoise of the sea. The sensual movement of this painting is full of colorful textures; it is a soft and rhythmical prologue that testifies to the process of creation of one of the fundamental facets of Siqueiros’ work, as an artist who was obsessed with dance and film. The figure of the tehuana is poised between exoticism and political commitment. It strikes a balance between both visions identified with Mexico.

    Dr. Irene Herner Reiss



signed and dated "Siqueiros 12-49" lower right; further titled, signed and dated "Tehuanas - 1949 - Siqueiros" on the reverse
pyroxylin on masonite
28 1/4 x 29 1/4 in. (71.8 x 74.3 cm)
Painted in 1949.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale, Latin American Art
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York Auction 24 May 2017