On November 30, 2022, Mexican muralist and sculptor Federico Silva passed away at the age of 99, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and boundless creative expression.
Federico began, at first, studying all that the sciences and humanities had to offer. Anthropology, medicine, law – he had an insatiable thirst for knowledge that he eventually turned towards the studio arts. Opting for self-study rather than institutional, he used an extensive study of books to learn the principles of challenging art techniques such as encaustic, frescoes, and tempera. Later in life, he met David Alfaro Siqueiros – an artist who invited Federico to become his assistant, apprentice, and collaborator. Getting the hands-on, professional experience he needed through projects such as the famous mural Nueva Democracia, located in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, he gained confidence and exposure as an independent artist. Creating lasting bonds with fellow artists and mentors Diego Rivera, Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O’Higgins and the writer José Revueltas, Federico’s own work flourished in a wholly unique direction.
Influenced predominantly by Mexican muralism and the interplay of motion, light, and sound – Federico built on his individualism and practice throughout his travels through post-war Europe. Taking into consideration the ways society was changing at that time, he worked issues of socioeconomic conflict into his artistry. He later became known for his political outspokenness and using art as a medium for activism and critique.
In 1950 Silva executed his first mural which utilized naturalistic realism uncommon to his later body of work. When creating the murals for the engineering faculty at UNAM, he resorted to a geometric-abstract expression that he would use again when completing the murals within the chapel of San Andrés Tectipan in Mexico. Over time, these works became part of a larger collection now known as the murals of the Huites Caves – his most celebrated creation. Working within the long cave drilled into the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, Silva began the Huites cave painting project in 1992 and completed it four years later in 1996.
Federico Silva is one of the most highly awarded and regarded artists in Mexico across his main disciplines of sculpture, muralism, and easel painting. In 1995, he received the National Prize for Sciences and Arts, which is the highest distinction the Government of Mexico grants to its artists. Now on display across the globe, admirers can experience his work live as well as within the pages of his comprehensive seven book collection. We will continue to honor and be inspired by his legacy of creativity and passion.
All Photography by Jus Asaf