As many Mexican Americans and Latinos celebrate Cinco de Mayo today I’ve been thinking about the rich artistic legacy Mexico has produced including the artists Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jan Soriano, and Rufino Tamayo.
Altitude 2000, Departure (1946) by Julio De Diego
Many non-Mexican artists have also been deeply inspired by their visits to Mexico with its rich and varied landscapes that offer a wealth of source material. Spanish-American artist Julio de Diego
(1900-1979) is one of my favorite examples. In the summer of 1945 de Diego visited Mexico, taking his first flight in an airplane. Today flying is something most of us have experienced and take for granted. In 1945 airplane travel was something the majority of the world could only dream about, and most had never experienced. De Diego was so inspired by his first flight that he produced a series of paintings which were later reproduced in the 1946 May issue of Life Magazine
. These works were known as the Altitude Series
. De Diego mentions how air travel allowed him to discover a new form of landscape, and to put these inspired fantasies on canvas.
“From take off to landing objects, land, water, people, and moving things have a definite and mysterious meaning, which had to be treated topographically.”
I’ll never forget the day I saw my first De Diego work
. It was in a storage facility in Manhattan, where I met an elderly gentleman who had known the artist. As we opened the storage locker, in a climate controlled facility on the 10th floor, the first painting my eyes fell upon were De Diego’s Saint Atomic
. My socks were blown off my feet and sat smoldering on the wall behind us. It only got better from there, as other De Diego works, including Altitude 2000 and others fell under my gaze. It’s a real joy to be a private art dealer, and days like that one are a big part of my personal highlight reel of working with fine art.