A stylized painted portrait of a woman's face, wearing red lipstick and a blue hat with a veil

Portrait of Grusha

Carlos Orozco Romero is considered one of the fathers of Mexican contemporary art as well as the founder of some of Mexico’s greatest cultural institutions. Working in post- revolutionary Mexico, Orozco Romero, who studied in Europe and New York, was disinterested in the nationalist grandiosity and historical thematic of the Muralist movement, preferring instead a more personal style influenced by Surrealism. In 1932, Orozco Romero, in partnership with Carlos Mérida, established the first exhibition space at the Palacio Nacional de Bellas Artes and opened the National School of Dance in its theatre, where both artists often designed costumes and stage sets. Orozco Romero later directed the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City and founded an art school where he taught for many years.

This Portrait Of Grusha is an exquisite and rare example of the artist’s transformative portraiture. The sitter was most likely Grusha Mark, a member of Anna Sokolow’s Dance Group from New York. The Group was initially invited to perform in Mexico City by Mérida and Orozco Romero, but Sokolow continued to work in Mexico for many years after that. In this painting, the features of the dancer Grusha are abstracted and stylized so that she is at once an individual and a symbol. The portrait hung in the dining room of Gunther Gerzso, who when asked who it was of, would often reply “Oh, that is no one.” The formal qualities in this picture are so interesting- the almond shapes in black and red, the hat, veil and hair all rendered as one- that the identity of the sitter is almost beside the point. In this sense, Orozco Romero influenced the next generation of artists who rejected the Muralist legacy in exchange for more intimate but universal forms of expression.