Art as activism: Siqueiros

Posted on November 6, 2012 by Sonoma Valley Sun

David Alfaro Siqueiros, the Mexican artist, revolutionary and political agitator who died in 1974 after a prolific career that merged art and activism, is the subject of a November 8 lecture at the Sonoma Community Center.

History professor and Siqueiros scholar Dr. Tony White will speak present a chronological overview of the artist’s life and work, including his major mural projects, key paintings, and commentary and photos at different stages of his life.

Siqueiros is considered one the artistic masters of the twentieth century, a member of the great Mexican school of mural painting that includes José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera.

A lifetime of political defiance is evident in this David Alfaro Siqueiros self-portrait, seen above.

Many of his murals were experimental, an he employed the latest materials and equipment from modern industry to create a new realism for a modern age. He adopted acrylic paints, spray guns and air compressors, along with cameras and photography, to express his ideas on indoor and exterior public walls, and developed new techniques in the process.

Between mural projects, he engaged in direct political action at home and abroad, for which he was arrested, exiled or deported multiple times. In 1960, at age 64, he served nearly four years in the national penitentiary.

He fought in the Mexican Revolution, was a union organizer, was a colonel in the Spanish Civil War and led an armed assault on the Mexican residence of Leon Trotsky, the Russian exile.

D. Anthony White, Ph.D., is a retired history professor who taught Latin American History at Sonoma State University for 37 years. After learning Spanish as a basketball coach and player in Bilbao, Spain, he earned his doctorate in history at UCLA.

Under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, White took a sabbatical from SSU to study the life and work of Siqueiros. White conducted research in Mexican archives and interviewed the artist’s widow, family members and friends, his fellow artists and art historians.

The 7 p.m. lecture is the second on the seven-part “Windows to the World” series, produced by the Sonoma Community Center and the Sonoma Sister Cities Association to offer perspectives on the seven countries of Sonoma’s Sister Cities: Hungary, Italy, Mexico, China, France, Ukraine and Egypt.

Tickets to an individual lecture are $15 and are available at the SCC Box Office, 938-4626 x1 or

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