David Alfaro Siqueiros: The Activist Artist

Categories: ArtistsFrida Kahlo

David Alfaro Siqueiros was a social realist painter known for his large murals in fresco. He was born in Chihuahua City in 1896 and by age fifteen David was already involved in artistic studies and political activism. Siqueiros was involved in direct political action more than most other artists. He was a sophisticated political ideologist who was involved in the political conflicts of the Mexican Revolution serving as a protestor, demonstrator, soldier and leader of an assassination squad.

The type of art he produces are murals; he believed art should be public, educational, and ideological.

He went probably the furthest of all the muralists in his attempts to combine his political views and aesthetic ideals with modern technical means to create a truly “public art”. Siqueiros was an activist in many different ways, controversy lies in his work, and he has many meanings of his work. In 1911 Siqueiros led a student strike at San Carlos Academy, one designed to force changes in teaching methods, this strike lasted six months and ended in complete victory for students.

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Through his fellows, he soon became familiar with communist and anarchist writings, embittering him further against the upper middle class to which he himself belonged. Following that in 1913 he joined the anti-Huerta Constitutionalist movement and contributed to its newspaper, La Vanguardia. After serving four years as an active combatant during the Revolution, he attained the rank of a captain. Siqueiros than organized a group called Congress of Soldier Artists in 1918. He then published a magazine called Vida Americana in 1921.

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These play the roles of him being an activist because he is reporting his issues. In 1924, Siqueiros finished work on The Burial of the Martyred Worker, also in the National Preparatory School, taking the bold step of painting a hammer-and-sickle on the coffin. This provoked outrage on the part of the students at the School, then, as prior to the Revolution, representing the conservative element in society. There were several clashes, and the muralists took to carrying firearms to defend themselves.

At one point, a battalion of Yaqui Indians, all devout supporters of the Revolution marched into the school to defend the murals. A short while later, the artists received a major blow when Vasconcelos resigned from his post as Minister of Public Education. Quite soon, the government issued an ultimatum; either the painters had to abandon their Union, or they would be fired from the government payroll. The painters refused. When Diego Rivera adopted a more conciliatory tone, they voted to expel him from the Union.

As a result, within a short period of time, he was the only muralist still allowed to work. In response, Siqueiros turned to political activism. Leaving Mexico City, he traveled to the state of Jalisco, where he helped organize trade unions for the silver miners there. He was so successful that by 1927 he was head of the United Syndicate Confederation of Mexico, a national trade union organization that brought together miners, peasants, factory and railroad workers, school teachers and other professional groups. He quickly was harassed and detained several times by the police.

Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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David Alfaro Siqueiros: The Activist Artist. (2017, Jan 22). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/david-alfaro-siqueiros-the-activist-artist-essay

David Alfaro Siqueiros: The Activist Artist essay
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