Siqueiros survived the two other outstanding artists of Mexico’s age of murals. He, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco used walls to present, explain, and promote the Mexican Revolution’s view of the past, conception of the future, and promise to the people. Politics and art provided different expressions of the same revolutionary Mexican reality. Because he survived longest, Siqueiros’s artistic explanations changed the most. His largest work, “The March of Humanity,” and the Polyforum presented the Mexico of the 1960s and closed the nation’s period of murals.
Folgarait adopts deconstruction to find the reality back of “The March of Humanity” and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional. He insists that that mural cannot be evaluated as simply the reflection of the PRI’s bankruptcy, but that the two must be understood as simultaneous expressions of the same Mexican reality. Both, for example, have reduced the Mexican to a spectator, rather than a participant, in national life: the perspectives, architecture, and panel-like quality of “The March of Humanity” force a person to stand, without moving, in the middle of the Polyforum and to remain a spectator there. The PRI’s control of nominations, elections, and administrations does exactly the same.
The ironies jolt the imagination. Siqueiros, fresh from prison as a critic of the regime and most visible member of the Mexican Communist party, accepted the patronage of conservative industrialist Manuel Súarez and, later, of the government. The mural had the foreign tourist as its projected audience, so it is enclosed and can be seen only by purchasing a ticket; the Mexican people were thus unable to view and admire it from the street for free. Its contents abandon nationalism, the country’s past, and the revolution’s promises, and in their place offer internationalism, the march toward a better world in the distant future, and the depersonalization of events. Anyone interested in Mexican murals and the use of deconstructionalist heuristics will find this a stimulating exposition.