Saturday, September 14, 2013

some thoughts while sitting in a courtyard

A sculpted lamb in a Moorish-inspired fountain.  A warbler in an orange tree.  The distinctive rhythms of two Flamenco guitars played by a master and a talented student echoing through arcaded porticoes.

Even in the rain,it could be Seville.  Or even the Alhambra during the fifteenth century.  Anyplace where serenity and art are a foundation of life.

I am sitting in the courtyard of the Escula de Belles Artes (School of Fine Arts) in San Miguel de Allende.  Once a monastery for the attached La Concepción church.  And about as far away from Melaque as a soul can stroll.  Where the coins of naivete are exchanged for sophistication in large denominations.

Not complete sophistication, though.  After all, this is Mexico.  The Flamenco has now morphed into that travelogue ditty -- México en la piel.  Perhaps, proving all sophistication is skin deep.

But this is not a place to sit.  The building is two stories of almost every form of art.

The guitar rooms with the guitarists who have been entertaining me over the past hour.  Piano rooms.  Textile rooms.  Strings pulled together to please the ear and eye.

As nice as the second floor offerings are, it was the first floor that drew me here.  There are two large galleries perfect for displaying sculpture and painting.

Both galleries are currently displaying the works of San Miguel de Allende artist David Kestenbaum.  You already saw his bull sculpture -- in Thursday's post.

His work is quite varied.  The sculptures are of metal, wood, or stone.  Each piece capturing the strengths of its medium.  And a bit of the artist's whimsy.

His paintings are both abstract and representational.  Large and small.

The show continues through the end of the year.

The building also has some permanent works.  Murals. Mostly of a rather primitive nature, by some early art students of the school.

I have been waiting for three years to see the most important mural, though.  And it is not even a finished product.

In 1949, Davíd Siqueiros, one of the triumvirate of Mexican muralists (along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco) began a mural while he was teaching at the school.  When finished, the mural was to encapsulate the ceiling and walls of the nuns' rectory.

He never completed it.  Like most of these tales, there are many versions.

Siqueiros was obsessive about his Communist politics.  Obsessive enough that he was one of the people who executed the failed assassination plot against Trotsky.  He would have felt at home in Orwell's Animal Farm.

At the time he taught in San Miguel Allende, a large number of the students were American GIs -- just returned from battling the fascists.  We know he threw one of them down a stairwell in an argument.  An inevitable disagreement with the school's administration caused his departure -- and the mural's permanent unfinished state -- leaving it right up there with Schubert.

iqueiros mapped out the perspective and focus lines on the walls.  You can still see them against the blocks of paint he completed.

The finished mural undoubtedly would have been filled with paeans to dialectical materialism and images of how the Mexican Revolution was betrayed by its leaders.  That was his schtick.

For all of that, though, he was a masterful muralist.  I am a bit disappointed he did not complete it.  But I am even happier to have finally seen its bones.

Flamenco probably would have been far to bourgeois for
Siqueiros's tastes.  Certainly México en la piel would have.

But not for me.  After all, I am just a poor pensioner trying to make his way through a confusing world.  That is why I find little surprises like this in art galleries, ready to drive away all stuffiness, to be exactly why I love Mexico.

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