JOSE CLEMENTE ORAZCO’S EPIC
Art 458: Modern Latin American Art Professor Paquette
17 November 2016
In 1934 José Clemente Orozco completed a two-year fresco mural project at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Located in the Baker Library at the center of campus, The Epic of American Civilization is comprised of twenty-six panels that form a somewhat chronological treatise on the historical and sociological evolution of North America. Not only is the work epic in subject matter, but also in size, as it measures almost 150 feet long.1
The mural is a grand statement, with a host of allegorical and ideological components, but it maintains a cohesive narrative throughout. The dual identities of Mexico and the United States are explored under a common umbrella, the two nations’ futures inextricably bound by their common pasts. Orozco erases the idea of American exceptionalism by refocusing U.S. creation myths through a lens of common origin: colonialism, indigenous genocide, and the cyclical nature of violence, revolution, and labor rights universal to both countries.
Political and physical conflict provide the impetus for Orozco to find himself in the United States for the second time in a decade, this period from 1927-1934. In Orozco in Gringoland, Alejandro Anreus gives several explanations for the move north. Mexico was involved in the Cristero War and the Mexican government had eliminated the anarcho- syndicalist labor movement.2 Although Orozco was