Manuel González Serrano

Equilibrio, ca. 1944

Oleo / cartón
56 x 39 cm

Visually and thematically, Equilibrium, also known as Projection [Proyección] and Margin [Margen], is the most important of the several still lifes by Manuel González Serrano in the Blaisten collection. As in Two Heads and Self-Portrait in Three Phases, the picture combines the floral still life tradition that emerged in Holland in the 17th century, with unsettling and mysterious references that owe as much to the artist’s own tortured visions as they do to the legacy of European surrealism. A wooden board suspended by two cords or wires hangs out over a vast landscape of plowed fields, caught in the rain. An old rusted enamel chamber pot [bacinica] has been reused to hold two flowering plants that are almost too big for their container: a bird of paradise with crisp green leaves and a smaller fuchsia with atypically brown leaves and fuzzy stems, as if suffering from some plague. Near the pot are a clothespin, four glass marbles, and a naturally speckled egg, perhaps that of some wild bird. Roberto Pérez Escamilla has called this scene a "coded self-portrait [that] exalts the beauty born from corruption, from excrement, from the basest passions." And though one might find erotic as well as scatological connotations here, it seems equally certain that González Serrano was fascinated by the baroque elegance of these tropical flowers, by their twisting forms and vivid colors. For example, he is careful to highlight the curly orange petals of the birds of paradise against the dark clouds. The egg clearly symbolizes fertility and fragility, the marbles may reference children’s games, and the clothespin could signal anything from torture to domestic chores; absent period interviews or descriptions, however, interpretations of the picture’s overall meaning remain somewhat speculative. The painting may have been first exhibited in 1944 at an exhibition entitled "Floricultura," sponsored by Mexico’s Secretaría de Fomento. It was formerly in the collection of journalist Carlos León.

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

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