Thursday, January 20, 2005

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Pablo O'Higgins... another gringo who stuck around

I don't know if this artist is even known outside of Mexico. He's not much known even in Mexico. Pablo O'Higgins (1904-1983), born in Salt Lake City, arrived in Mexico City in 1926. It might make a good story if I could claim he was a Mormon missionary led astray... which sounds like something the master muralist (and serial liar), Diego Rivera would have made up. But Diego never thought of that story, and it wasn't true anyway. No... O'Higgins actually came here to study with Diego... and José Clemente Orozco and that other Mexico "O" muralist, Juan O'Gorman (I'm always confusing the two.) As committed to THE Revolution (international or simply Mexican) as the masters, but much less a publicity hound than Diego, O'Higgins suffered the fate of being the second generation of Mexican muralists (he took out Mexican citizenship). He wasn't new, and Mexico was out of fashion from the 40s until very recently when everybody decided Frieda Kahlo was interesting. Everybody but the Mexicans that is. For Mexicans, Kahlo is a European "artiste" wannabe whose self-indulgence and morbid self-absorbsion is very un-Mexican. Mexican artists, especially Revolutionary ones are "jest folks"... one with the people... and one of the people. Frieda may have a Communist, and she married Diego (who is forgiven his outsized ego... and outsized SIZE... the guy was HUGE!... because he really did start a revolution -- artistic, not the workers' one), but, she looks like someone just starved for attention and living in her own universe. But her life is interesting. Entire books (and a crappy Hollywood movie) are dedicated to her. Pablo O'Higgins' biography is only sixty words at "Biografias y Vidas . com". Rather than draw himself and talk endlessly about himself, he painted the people he respected... the ordinary, hard-working Mexican campesinos and workers. Mercado Abelardo Rodriguez, off calle del Carmen between c. Rep. de Venezuela and c. Rep. de Colombia is, in some ways the pefect setting to see his works. Although the murals need restoration, the Mercado is not on any tourist trail. It's decidedly an everyday blue collar, traditional working class market... the hard working campesinos and workers O'Higgins respected as the "Real Mexicans". His subject is the struggle of the common person for dignity, and where better to witness the artistic representation than in the midst of the real thing... among those working class heros at their neighborhood mercado, in the heart of Tepito, the barrio bravo?

Detail from La lucha obrera, mural by Pablo O'Higgins (1904-1983) Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso


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