Prometheus 2017: Four Artists from Mexico Revisit Orozco showcases José Clemente Orozco’s mural Prometheus (1930) on the Pomona College campus and examines the multiple ways Orozco’s vision resonates with four artists working in Mexico today. Isa Carrillo, Adela Goldbard, Rita Ponce de León, and Naomi Rincón-Gallardo share Orozco’s interest in the relationships among history, justice, power, social protest, and storytelling, yet approach these topics from their own twenty-first-century sensibilities. These artists activate Orozco’s mural by reinvigorating Prometheusfor a contemporary audience. Prometheus 2017 is supported by grants from the Getty Foundation as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an initiative led by the Getty.
Orozco’s Prometheus represents the first mural painted in the US by a Mexican muralist, and signifies the beginning of a complex decade of Mexican engagement with US publics. Orozco’s vision of Prometheus as an allegory for art that attempts to reach a wider audience—bringing knowledge and enlightenment to the masses—highlights the ethos of Mexican muralism to transform society. Orozco’s Prometheus reflects the tensions in his practice between a commitment to a political message and private agency. Orozco’s esoteric and iconographic engagement with the myth involves his own biography and elite ideas about the artist as a prophet or seer.
Carrillo, Goldbard, Ponce de León, and Rincón-Gallardo utilize strategies of engaged historical or archival research, public intervention, or intimately scaled social practice to connect with their publics and advance social issues. The work of the four artists presented in Prometheus 2017 aligns with Orozco’s complicated humanism; each artist addresses Orozco’s mural, person, and/or practice in distinct ways.
Carrillo’s psychological portrayal of Orozco uses the practice of esoteric arts such as astrology and graphology to intimately explore his life and work. Referencing acts of political violence in recent Mexican history, Goldbard creates videos of sculptures that she fabricates with local artisans then activates or destroys using pyrotechnics. She embraces the metaphor of fire as a tool of both creation and destruction. Ponce de León revisits the history and legacy of mural art as a tool to reconceptualize community building and public art practice. Collaborating with Pomona College students, Ponce de León’s project for the exhibition engages Prometheus through collective work sessions. Examining Greek mythology and historical dreams of utopia in Mexico, Rincón-Gallardo links a personal narrative with an exploration of the themes that are at the heart of Prometheus and Orozco’s turn to myth.
The exhibition will be on view at the Pomona College Museum of Art from August 29 to December 16, 2017, with performances and related programming occurring regularly throughout those months. The exhibition opens with a presentation of Orozco’s preparatory drawings for the mural drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition dedicates a gallery to each of the contemporary artists, highlighting her connections to Orozco and the Prometheus mural. A timeline anchors elements of the exhibition with information on Orozco’s life and artwork, the Prometheus mural, Prometheus as a discursive figure, the history of Pomona College, and pertinent world events.