Juan Soriano (1920 - 2006)


    Juan Soriano's career has spanned seven decades and involved nearly every artistic medium, including painting, drawing, ceramics, tapestry, and sculpture. The artist has also frequently illustrated books and created designs for theatrical productions.

    Born in 1920 in Guadalajara, Mexico, by the time he was twelve years old Soriano was a frequent visitor to the house of the painter and collector Jesús 'Chucho' Reyes Ferreira, and Soriano would later state that Reyes had been a major influence on his work by teaching him about European and Mexican art through an authentically Mexican sensibility.

    Soriano's first painting lessons were in the popular studio 'Evolucion', directed by Francisco Rodríquez 'Caracalla'. While participating in a group show at the studio in 1934, Soriano was introduced to visiting artists María Izquierdo, Lola Alvarez Bravo and José Chávez Morado, who convinced Soriano to move to Mexico City.

    Soriano soon became a central figure in the capital's art world, exhibiting his paintings and drawings both in individual shows and with the League of Revolutionary Artists and Writers (LEAR), teaching art classes at the well-known school 'La Esmeralda' where he gained an interest in sculpture, and designing scenery for the theatrical productions of the Teatro Orientación. Although from very early on Soriano was exposed to the politically motivated styles of the Mexican muralists, he was interested in developing a more personal aesthetic. The fantastic world painted by Soriano in the 1940s is characterised by scenes of baroque-inspired angels, children who play mysterious games, revealing portraits of well-known friends, and still lifes adhering to the memento mori tradition.

    By the 1950s, partially inspired by his readings on the art of Zen Buddhism, Soriano began to paint in a more abstract style. During these years he lived for a period in Rome, where Pre-classical and Classical cultures also exerted a strong influence, and led to the 'Apollo and the Muses' series. From 1961 to 1962 Soriano focused - obsessively, as the artist himself put it - on the face and figure of Lupe Marín to create a compelling series of paintings. From the 1970s onward Soriano lived between Mexico City and Paris, and over the last three decades of his life produced large scale sculpture for museums, plazas and parks in Mexico City, Villahermosa, Monterrey and Guadalajara among other locations. In 2000, in honour of Soriano's eightieth birthday, ten monumental sculptures by the artist were exhibited in Mexico City's Plaza de la Constitución.

    Terri Geis

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