Marin’s sculpture captures spirit of culture

DALLAS — It is always enjoyable to see a giant exhibition that is a survey of a time, place or culture. But it is an even greater pleasure to find a single piece that excites and inspires.

Such is the case with Francisco Arturo Marin’s “Mourning For Zapata,” part of the exhibition “México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde,” at the Dallas Museum of Art through July 16.

It is a simply stunning sculpture, made of veined black Veracruz marble, which draws on Aztec traditions. It is beautifully evocative vision of grief, as the six figures carry the limp body of the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, the main leader of the peasant revolution in the state of Morelos, Mexico.

mayanThe figures have the classic indigenous look of Mexican art, and also have disproportionately large hands and feet — reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s figures that suggest sturdy peasant stock.

There is a literal and figurative weight to the piece as the slumped corpse bends the group who carry it, weighed down by their sorrow.

The six figures are each individually addressed, with stunning detail put into the hands, feet and faces. There is an echo of Rodin’s “The Burghers of Calais,” with the figures bowed by an equal amount of pain and loss.

The smoothness of the male figures naked torsos is contrasted by the brushed texture of the women’s dresses. The lifeless Zapata is also covered by the same texture, as if wrapped in a burial shroud.

The whole composition is a cube of death and grief, as though the whole world has shrunk to this small group. In reality, Zapata was gunned down by government troops in 1919 after he was betrayed. His body was photographed to prove he was dead, displayed for 24 hours and then buried. There was no funeral parade, so Marin’s sculpture is an elegy to the myth of Zapata that still resonates today.

“Mourning For Zapata,” created in 1957, is a powerful symbol of pride in heritage, culture and the working man.

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