Los Angeles

Jose Clemente Orozco

Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego

A selection of seventy studio works (drawings and temperas from family and private collections, seen for the first time in the U.S.) was marked by several rare treats, but, only after wading through a miscellaneous majority of bitterly satirical Expressionist allegories from the last decade of his life. One would rather remember his solid achievements, the frescoes of the late ’20s and early ’30s. The small, final working tempera “Zapata” (1930) sums up his mural power—Giottoesque simplicity. Severely architectonic, the group is kept to a narrow stage of planes, developed in a limited warm-cool palette, but full value range, and each figure is involved in a silent and significant gesture relating to the entire group.

Of special note are the ten examples from a set of two hundred ink drawings from 1945, entitled “The Truth Series” which parallel the energetic ferocity of Beckmann, and the symbolic charcoal, “Covered Head of a Slave” (1948), which bespeaks numbing terrors.

Throughout his lifetime, Orozco treated the nude, but nowhere with more immediacy, concentration and sureness than in the room devoted to studies for the Pomona College murals, the supporting figures for the “Prometheus.” These backs and arms exhibit the strength of planal development, a broken contour accented at solid bone and tendons, brought into relief by broad strokes of tone. There is a hard clarity, a sense of directness before the model, and they reflect a lucid vision closer to that of a sculptor.

Fidel A. Danieli