As it was mentioned in The Different Positions section, Mrs. Margarita Valladares tells her granddaughter that her grandfather built the four aforementioned Home-and-Studios and, furthermore, that these were works of his own design1. It is relevant, for the ends of this research, to establish clearly in what sense she used the concepts “built and own design”, since an accurate interpretation of these words might give more sense to the events that took place.
There are two possible meanings to the phrase Your grandfather built four studios2: the first could mean that Orozco built, which is to say, ordered the four home-and-studios he inhabited to be built, or, in other words, he did not acquire the home-and-studios built already, but rather, bought the properties and ordered the construction of the buildings.
The other meaning could be that Orozco himself directed and coordinated the works of construction of the four home-and-studios. Supposing the former interpretation, it is accurate to state that Orozco had the four home-and-studios built. However, in regards to the latter possible meaning, some clues have been found, during the process of investigation, that make it difficult to establish that Orozco coordinated and directed the construction of at least two of the four home-and-studios, as will be explained below:
– In the case of Orozco’s first Home-and-Studio, located in Coyoacán, everything suggests that Orozco himself was in charge of the construction. Mrs. Valladares retells that Orozco and his brother Luis acquired the property, in the year 1903, and that in this property, they built a house for Luis and his family, in addition to the studio and house for Mrs. Rosa Flores (mother of both). The studio’s construction began in 1921, according the petition letter directed to de H. Municipality of Coyoacán on January 1, of the same year.3.
Later, once Orozco started to consider marrying4, he added the living quarters for the Orozco-Valladares family to the studio. Regarding this house, Mrs. Valladares mentions, His first studio, he had built with true pleasure, with great enthusiasm of working in it5. Between 1934 and 1935, Orozco carried out several improvements of the house, including the change of the studio’s roof 6.
The reviewed information leaves no doubt on the fact that Orozco was personally in charge of directing the construction of this Home-and-Studio.
– In the case of the second Home-and-Studio, located on López Cotilla St in Guadalajara, everything seems to suggest it was also Orozco himself who oversaw and coordinated the construction, since, during the lapse of said construction (from 1936 to the beginning of 1938), Orozco resided permanently in the city of Guadalajara. This permanence allowed Orozco to supervise the advances of the building. In a letter sent to Mrs. Margarita Valladares, he mentions that The house keeps progressing, but I don’t think it will be inhabitable before January 1°7. In a second one, he refers to being mindful of the construction: we must finish the dome first, which will happen in around three weeks, and see to the construction of the studio […] Perhaps I can use it by the end of December. 8
It is important to underline that during the lapse of construction of the second Home-and-Studio, Luis Barragán already lived in Mexico City, and therefore, he cannot have been in charge of the construction. Similarly, there is the knowledge that Rafael Urzúa returned for the first time to his hometown (Concepción de Buenos Aires, Jalisco) in 19379, hence, he couldn’t have been in charge of the construction either. However, it is possible that either one, or both, of these characters supported Orozco, since, being involved in the construction network in Guadalajara, it would have been within their reach to contact providers, subcontractors, draftsmen, and, generally, construction personnel. They likely put this contact network at Orozco’s disposal for the construction of the Workshop-Dormitory.
– Regarding the Home-and-Studio at Ignacio Mariscal St, in Mexico City, there is certain evidence that could lead to the conclusion that it was not Orozco, but Luis Barragán, who took care of the construction.
In the first place, the order of the events must be considered, since this Home-and-Studio was built between the years of 1939 and 1941. During this lapse, Luis Barragán already lived in Mexico City. On the other hand, Orozco only lived there for brief stays, since during the same lapse, he concluded his muralistic works in Guadalajara and he painted, by commission of president Lázaro Cárdenas, the mural at Jiquilpan. In addition, he went to New York in order to paint the mural known as Dive bomber and Tank at the Modern Art Museum (MoMA) of New York.
In the second place, there are two letters that Orozco wrote to his wife Margarita, from which Luis Barragán can be inferred to be the builder of the Home-and-Studio. In the first of these letters, written from Jiquilpan, Michoacán, on April 2, 1940, Orozco mentions a check for 2000 dollars he received as payment from Mr. E. John Abbott and explains: I intend to give this check in full to [Luis] Barragán, for the house10. In a second letter, written from New York on May 21 of the same year, Orozco mentions the following to his wife: Tell me how the construction of the house at Mariscal is going. I am going to write to Barragán11.
– Finally, regarding the fourth Home-and-Studio, located at 148 Aurelio Aceves St of the city of Guadalajara, everything seems to suggest that engineer Luis Edmundo Ponce Adame was in charge of the construction, under the very close vigilance and supervision of Orozco.
Orozco acquired the property, on which the house would stand, at the end of 1947, according to a letter from Orozco to his wife, dated on December 12 of the same year: I have taken the parcel of land I told you about. It is half a block from the Arch, almost at Vallarta Avenue. […] It is fully urbanized, and there is plenty of water […]12.
Engineer Ponce Adame carried out the calculations and took care of supervising the site. He had met Orozco a few months back since he was also in charge of building the hall of the Chamber of Deputies, where Orozco painted his fourth and last mural work in this city. On April 6, 1949, Ponce Adame sent a letter to Orozco, which indicates that he was in charge of the building site:
I send to you the photographs of the house. In order to […] consult your opinion […] I allow myself to attach […] as […] a suggestion […] a sketch indicating an example of a solution for the façade. […] It is now urgent to decide what to do with the space at issue […] I would say that a cross-beam be poured […] in case you decide to leave a window […] on your order, I can make the casting so we can set the roof.13
During the lapse of construction of the fourth Home-and-Studio, Orozco shared his time between Guadalajara and Mexico City. This gave him the opportunity to watch the advances of the site very closely, as can be seen in one of the many letters sent to his wife: Today, they started bringing the iron windows, and they will start to put them up. As soon as the studio is ready, you must come […]. It is all going to be very nice.14 And, in a subsequent letter: It’s urgent for me to know the state of construction of the concrete wall where I will paint [he refers to the wall of the Miguel Alemán multifamily housing, designed by architect Mario Pani in Mexico City]. If it were not ready next week, I would remain here a few more days, since it is very useful and necessary to oversee the works on the house.15
Regarding the architectural design of the four home-and-studios, certain evidence suggests the possibility that Orozco did not carry out the design of all four home-and-studios, and even that, in some of them, the famous muralist carried out the project in collaboration with other characters.
Some authors have pointed Luis Barragán as the person responsible of the architectural design of the second and third of these home-and-studios (López Cotilla in Guadalajara and Ignacio Mariscal in Mexico City) limiting Orozco’s involvement as a client, and not as a designer.
Regardless of the whether these authors might or might not be correct, and even if this were the case, Orozco must have had a relevant contribution in the projects, taking into account his notable knowledge in geometry, perspective, dynamic symmetry, and modern architecture. It is difficult to imagine him as any other client. Proof of this is that his ideas and concepts on architecture are present in these spaces.
As will be seen below, Orozco’s degree of participation in these projects could vary, from a project designed by him in its totality, to a design in which Orozco would collaborate with a third party, fusing styles and ideas.
A brief review of the found circumstances and evidence will be made, with the idea that these might bring more clarity on Orozco’s involvement in the design of his home-and-studios.
– It is likely that Orozco himself designed the Home-and-Studio at Coyoacán. However, there is no determinant evidence to confirm or deny this, other than the testimony of Margarita Valladares.
– The second Home-and-Studio, located at López Cotilla St, is the main topic of this research. In order to make a deeper dissertation, the Conclusions section further develops the topic at hand.
– Regarding Orozco’s third Home-and-Studio, at Colonia Tabacalera, Mexico City, there is certain evidence, in addition to the statements made by some experts on the subject, that Luis Barragán carried out the design. The fragment of a letter Barragán sent Orozco on April 5, 1939, seems to confirm this: Answering to your letter in which you ask for information regarding the approximate cost of the house that I designed for you in this city […] the referred cost would be […] of $19,000 […] pesos.16
While it would be necessary to know the full content of the letter, as well as the letter in which Orozco asks Barragán for the quotation for the cost, in order to reach a certain conclusion, it is possible to interpret that said quotation refers to the Home-and-Studio at Ignacio Mariscal St. As mentioned before, it is important to note that by the date he sent this letter, Orozco sill lived in the city of Guadalajara, while Barragán has already moved to the country´s capital city.
– Finally, regarding Orozco’s Home-and-Studio at Colonia Arcos Vallarta, in the city of Guadalajara, there are three testimonies of importance concerning the project. This first belongs to Mrs. Margarita Valladares, in which she states the following:
Your grandfather designed and built his last studio with the purpose of alternating his residence between Mexico City and Guadalajara. […] The first comment he made to me concerning this new construction was: ´This studio will provide me with the opportunity of making completely different work from what I have done until now, it will be nothing like the previous ones´. I asked him to show me an advance of his projects, […] his answer was that he couldn’t give me an idea because only by seeing him work would I be able to understand him. In fact, this studio, designed especially for this purpose, would have granted the greatest ease and conveniences to carry out the work he had in mind, renewing himself completely. […]17
In the second testimony, architect Mario Pani remembers Orozco, making a brief description of the painter and of the professional relationship they held, and mentions having helped him with the design of his last Home-and-Studio:
[…] in 1947 […] Taking advantage of my stay in Guadalajara, Orozco asked me to help him build a home and workshop: ‘I want it to have a very good orientation, and that a lot of light enters it’ he told me. His purpose was to paint outdoors, nude under the sunlight. […] Of the Home-and-Studio, I made nothing but a sketch. Orozco himself finished building it, and it is, nowadays, a museum. 18
Finally, Alma Reed narrates what engineer Ponce Adame said to her regarding the making of this Home-and-Studio: […] Orozco supervised all the details of construction, working constantly on the heliographic copies –which he drew himself- and changing frequently the dimensions of the main window of the studio […].19
From these testimonies, we can conclude that José Clemente Orozco’s last Home-and-Studio, at 27 Aurelio Aceves St, is, in fact, an original project by Orozco, probably supported by some of Mario Pani’s ideas.
Finally, it is important to underline that, for this investigation, it was not possible to consult all of the information regarding the subject. Many letters that could bring more light on the facts are not available, and many key characters have already passed away. Even so, it was decided that the obtained data and facts be published in this text for the revision and scrutiny of readers.