María Izquierdo

Zapata, 1945

Oleo / tela
41 x 51 xm

Only the title of this oil painting identifies the unmarked recent grave as that of Emiliano Zapata, whose sole mourners here are horses. The painting doubtless disturbs expectations of an iconic and heroic representation of the lost Revolutionary general, assassinated in April 1919. Despite the determination of the government to wipe out his memory, Zapata’s name survived. For example, Diego Rivera featured Zapata in his murals in the chapel at the Escuela Nacional de Agricultura in Chapingo (1926-27), where he is buried underground yet the source of continued fertility and revolutionary energy. In Izquierdo’s painting, however, the only echo of the Revolution is a sombre and pessimistic landscape with blasted tree and a black crow, recalling scenes of devastation during the civil war as recorded by Francisco Goitía. In María Izquierdo’s paintings, horses -modeled in part on little pottery horses that she collected- are frequently the bearers of human feelings and responses, perhaps in the spirit of the "Houyhnhnms" in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. In this painting the horses gaze as though stopped in their tracks by the grave. The memory or mourning this might represent and its relation to the currency of Zapata’s name remains ambiguous, but must also be linked to the fact that he was a famed horseman. Rivera drew upon photographs recording Zapata with his white horse in his iconic image in the Palacio de Cortés in Cuernavaca (1930). The horses in Zapata confronted with the death of their master might thus stand in for the human mourners who have lost their leader. But there is also a suspicion that Izquierdo is challenging here, in a very Swiftian manner, an accepted iconography incorporated into revolutionary myth. The astonishment with which the two horses in Zapata confront his grave might thus be an inversion of the response of the indigenous peoples whose rights the body in the grave had so unwaveringly defended.

Dawn Ades, Arte Moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

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