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Manuel González Serrano

Autorretrato a tres tiempos (Llanto liberado), ca. 1947

Oleo / madera
35 x 32 cm
MGS018

As the title indicates, this still life is also a self-portrait, a blending of genres found in Carlos Orozco Romero’s Abstraction [Abstracción] (1932; Blaisten collection). As in Sailboats and Fish and Equilibrium, both also in the Blaisten collection, a simple wooden table or platform in the immediate foreground stands alone before a landscape, here desolate and mountainous. A strange hollow sculpture rests on this table, a sort of Janus figure composed of a mask-like visage with an open mouth that directly faces the viewer and another smoother head, barely seen, that looks off to the left. Judging from its profile, this second head is that of the artist, identified in part by the same trailing mustache that appears in a 1947 self-portrait now in the Perez Escamilla collection. Dark green tendrils emerge from a jagged opening at the top of this sculpture, and also grow out from the eyes of both faces. Butterflies rest on the ends of these delicate and energetic plant forms. The mask sheds tears, and a pool of water has gathered at the sculpture’s base. Several of the elements here, including the tears and tendrils, and even the rocky landscape, appear in self-portraits by Frida Kahlo. As Ricardo Pérez Escamilla has noted, the two artists were not friends, but it seems clear that González Serrano was familiar with her work. This picture, however, is more grotesque and self-destructive than anything Kahlo ever painted. One might interpret the painting as representing the birth of "liberated" ideas from the suffering artistic persona, but the open skull is also an unnerving premonition of the frontal lobotomy the artist endured in 1956, a tragic attempt to ameliorate his violent, schizophrenic behavior.

Vide James Oles, Arte moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten. Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

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