Conservation of América Tropical
In 1990, a team headed by Mexican conservator, Agustín Espinosa, examined and carried out preliminary conservation treatment of América Tropical. This phase of conservation included plaster reattachment, filling of cracks and losses, cleaning, and removal of residual whitewash and tar. Plaster reattachment was of great concern, given the damage to the mural and the loss of plaster in the upper corners following the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.
In preparation for construction of the protective canopy, further stabilization of the mural was undertaken by the GCI in 2002, and preparators from the J. Paul Getty Museum installed a rigid protection in front of the mural.
Final phase conservation treatment was carried out after installation of the protective canopy. This included surface cleaning, injection grouting, loss compensation, removal of tar and residual tar staining, and minimal reintegration in areas of damage and conservation treatment.
Conservator Emily MacDonald-Korth removes tar from the base of the mural. Photo: Stacey Rain Strickler/JPGM. Mural: © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SOMAAP, Mexico City.
Following current conservation philosophy and the approach proposed by conservators as early as 1971, the mural has been preserved, but not restored to its original appearance.
Given the overall deterioration of the surface, any attempt to restore the mural to its original appearance would entail reconstructing large areas of loss and require repainting the majority of the image, thus erasing the traces of its history. It would also entail reconstructing large areas of loss.
Due to the lack of color documentation of the mural from the time it was first painted, such reconstruction and repainting would be speculative and the physical evidence is incomplete. Most importantly, the hand of Siqueiros cannot be replicated, particularly in areas such as the central scene where both the face of the crucified figure and the eagle are nearly obliterated.
Nonetheless, the conservation approach undertaken allows for limited inpainting of damage to reinstate legibility, surface cleaning, and minimal inpainting which significantly improves the legibility of the mural.
GCI is continuing to monitor the condition of the mural on a regular basis to determine if any further deterioration is occurring.
Page updated: August 2012