Manuel González Serrano

Dos cabezas, ca. 1945

Temple / papel
49 x 33 cm

Although undated, like most of his images, this large drawing by Manuel González Serrano probably dates to the early 1950s, judging by its formal qualities. The muted tones and the sketchy quality of the paint, at times laid down with a relatively dry brush, recall the surfaces of some of José Clemente Orozco’s later works. Despite the current title, this still life actually shows a single vessel, apparently made of clay, consisting of three heads (one barely seen) that support a central vase. The vase itself holds a leafless branch covered in long spines, loosely rendered as a series of slashes and cross-hatchings. Behind the vessel, one corner of a piece of paper has come free, rolling up into a scroll like some official, but wordless document. Thorny branches appear in other still lifes by González Serrano; they also form a necklace in his portrait of the poet Rubén Salazar Mallén (1949; Biblioteca de Arte Ricardo Pérez Escamilla) and the crown of thorns in his images of Jesus. They have clear penitential and Christian significance, of course, but in the case of this still life, they seem simply aggressive, or symbolic of death. The vase may reference the classical past, though it could also be a more local product. Overall, this quickly rendered study lacks the sexual charge and complex “surrealist” references commonly found in González Serrano’s other still lifes.

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

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