I could have gone with Harry Pollak W42 and his late wife, Sharley,
when they visited the studios of Alfredo Zalce and Juan OGorman
and the other Mexican artists whose work they collected. I picture
them stepping out of the hot sun of Morelia or Mexico City and into
the quiet, earthy places where the art is made and the imagination
is strong and the smell of paint and linseed oil mixes with that
of coffee and corn masa
I preferred to buy that
way, actually, says Pollak in a telephone interview. I went to
the artists homes on numerous occasions, and made friends with
some of them. I was usually invited for lunch. I think they really
felt complimented that somebody was interested in their work.
Since Mexico is not an
option right now, and the auctions at Sothebys and Christies are
too rich for my blood, Ill go instead to the Arthur
Ross Gallery, where Travels in the Labyrinth: Mexican Art in
the Pollak Collection is being exhibited from September 1 through
December 9. (The title was inspired by an essay in the shows gorgeous
catalogue, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.) The
traveling exhibition, which first opened at the Naples Museum of
Art in Florida, consists of more than 100 works of artpainting,
sculpture, and drawingsmost of them powerful, vibrant, mysterious.
After it leaves Penn, it will travel to the Ulrich Museum of Art
at Wichita State University in Kansas.
the works shown on these pages indicate, the range of styles and subject
matter by the 46 artists is impressive: from the earthy scenes of
Gabriel Fernández Ledesma and Alfredo Zalce to the wry cubism
of Rufino Tamayo to the sculpture of Armando Amaya and Alfredo Castañeda.
Not to mention the engaging retablos, or ex votossimple, compelling
paintings of divine interventions in the lives of ordinary people,
accompanied by a hand-written description of the event by the anonymous
For a variety of reasons,
most Americans know little about Mexican art beyond a few big names:
typically Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and maybe David Siqueiros,
who was such a powerful influence on Jackson Pollack; or Gerardo Murillo,
the legendary Dr. Atl; or José Clemente Orozco. But for art-lovers
to overlook the rest of the spectrum, says Pollak, is a big mistake.
Theyre missing an awful
lot. Not taking anything away from the greatness of Rivera and Tamayo
et cetera, but there are others just as important.
years ago, when the Pollaks began to collect art in a serious way,
they decided to confine themselves to Mexico.
I really liked the Mexicans
the best, says Pollak, because they were recognized world figures
in the world of art and my feeling was that they were extremely
cheap. I had a lot of reasons to believe that.
Sept/Oct Contents | Gazette
and Daughter, 1923, by Gabriel Fernández Ledesma;
Visit to the Imprisoned Farmer, 1930, by David Alfaro Siqueiros; and Young
Girl with Ears of Corn, 1938, by Diego Rivera.