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Francisco Zúñiga

Francisco Zúñiga (1912–1998) is likely one of the most under-rated Mexico City artists of the 20th century. His work is well represented in private and public locations across the City and his career spanned some 60+ years.

Born in San José de Costa Rica, his father ran a religious monuments workshop carving works mostly for cemeteries. He learned the trade as part of a family tradition spanning multiple generations. Zúñiga enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in San José, studied drawing, and then worked until 1934 with his family. By 1935, he'd won first prize in the local Sculpture Salon for a massive stone sculpture.

He moved to Mexico the following year to further study design and sculpture. He then collaborated with Rodríguez Lozano and Oliverio Martínez on the striking  sculptural groups of the Monument to the Mexican Revolution. By 1938, he was a professor in the school of "La Esmeralda."

His well-known indigenous figures came to be in terracotta, bronze, wood, stone, marble, onyx and occasionally in concrete. He also completed oil paintings, hundreds of drawings, woodcuts and lithographs. In his final years, almost blind, his terracotta figures achieved a new height of expression although sometimes they were nearly entirely abstract.

Over the course of his career, much was made of the tension between his Christian origins and the Neo-Indigenism that characterizes so much of his work. The entire Mid-Century period seems embodied in many of these figures that seem to mix a heightened European figuration with indigenous American subjects.

It's a period that's far less mysterious when seen through the eyes of Francisco Zúñiga. Social realism, a reluctant co-traveler with the Symbolism of the late 19th century, had calcified into Art Deco. But in Zúñiga, we see the beginnings of the Post-Colonial Art that would sweep away so much of the High Modernist ethos and appearance. Mexico City, one of few places to have well-preserved the work of this period, is the perfect place to understand it all, . . .better.

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