Born in Mexico in 1883, Jose Clemente Orozco was a self-taught painter who began his career as a cartoonist and ended it as a great muralist. He was at the height of his powers during the '30s, and much of the work in this exhibition of graphics dates from that period.
Orozco had a rigorous social conscience but, unlike a card-carrying political propagandist, he eschewed personal judgment on issues of good and evil, opting instead for mystical depiction of conflicts that plague humanity. He had a black sense of humor that sometimes tempers the Big Statement in his work. All the same, he packed a serious punch when he chose to. Orozco the humanist is clearly evident in "Manifesto," a 1935 litho depicting an army of downtrodden peasants waving protest banners, and in "Tortured Man," a grisly rendering of an anguished soul whose body is pierced with axes and knives.
A major mood swing is required to segue to his "Women in the Parlor," a portrait of six women carrying on like a flock of gabbling hens (like Picasso--whose work Orozco's resembles--he took a rather sexist view of women).
The conflicting currents that fed Orozco's sensibility come to a head in a 1928 litho titled "Tourists," wherein we see a group of snooty travelers dressed to the nines on a visit to the tropics, where they mingle ever so gingerly with the local primitives. It looks exactly like a cartoon from the New Yorker and reveals Orozco for the cosmopolitan world citizen he eventually became.