Cabeza Indigena, 1947 by Luis Arenal (1909-1985), Mexico
by Luis Arenal (1909-1985), Mexico
12.75” high x 17.25” wide, paper size
Luis Arenal (1909-1985) was one of the most politically active printmakers of the twentieth century in Mexico. During his childhood his family moved to the city of Aguascalientes in central Mexico, but they returned to Mexico City after his father died fighting in the Revolution. Before deciding to become an artist Arenal spent two years studying engineering in Mexico City. He emigrated to the United States in 1924, where he worked as a petrol can washer in California at the same time as studying architecture. Two years later he returned to Mexico and began his training as an artist at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National School of Plastic Arts). In 1928 he returned to the United States where he made California his base and focused on developing as a sculptor and as a printmaker. He also began to exhibit his work on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Arenal was in Los Angeles at the same time as David Alfaro Siqueiros, and in 1932 the two men collaborated on the fresco paintings at the Chouinard Art School. Arenal also became involved with American art groups such as the John Reed Club, an artists' union, and the American Artists' Congress. Upon his return to Mexico in 1933 he was appointed General Secretary of the Mexican League Against War and Fascism. One of his most important professional associations began the following year, when he founded the L.E.A.R. with José Chávez Morado, Leopoldo Méndez and other Mexican artists. He also established the L.E.A.R. publication 'Frente a Frente' with Juan de la Cabada in 1935.
In the late 1930’s Arenal continued to travel to the United States, working on projects including mural paintings at Bellevue Hospital in New York, and he attended the First Congress of American Artists against War and Fascism in 1936. When he returned to Mexico in 1937 he formed the Taller de Grafica Popular (TGP) with Leopoldo Méndez and Pablo O'Higgins. Arenal worked with Siqueiros again in 1939 on a mural at the Electrical Workers Union building in Mexico City. He was active as a Communist, and in 1940 was one of the artists involved in the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky at Diego Rivera's home in Coyoacán.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s, Arenal continued to exhibit with the TGP, but he also worked as an architect designing bridges, houses, and roads in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. In 1949, he became chief editor of the magazine 1945-46 which he co-founded with other intellectuals. This was the same year as his prints were published in 'Estampas de Guerrero'.
Arenal was married to Macrina Rabadan, a feminist who became the first female member of parliament in Mexico. He died in 1985 in the city of Cuernavaca.