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Feature 082012 Clark

Monday, August 20, 2012

Distress in Mexico City as Siqueiros and a Theater Disappear

By George Thomas Clark

  • It's true! The great indie movie theater in Polanco -- Casa del Arte -- closed about a year ago and will be replaced by a bowling alley.

Penelope, an art gallery owner in Houston, and Clyde, a building contractor, married two months after meeting last year, fueled by lust and undeterred by different interests. Penelope detested football and baseball, so Clyde never insisted she watch either in person or on TV. Clyde didn't understand contemporary art but graciously attended most opening night parties at the gallery and, save the first time, didn't call people on canvas deformed and the abstracts spaghetti.

The marriage proceeded satisfactorily and Clyde agreed to accompany Penelope to Mexico City where she was scouting two artists and planning to introduce her husband to the elegant, tree-blessed Polanco zone where Penelope had several times enjoyed an intimate museum honoring the great muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros -- also a political activist who tried to assassinate Trotsky before someone else succeeded -- and the indie films at Casa del Arte, four subterranean theaters topped by a lively street-side restaurant and bar whose patrons, though unpretentious, exuded wealth and sophistication.

On a peaceful Polanco street featuring seven-figure residences that must be purchased in cash dollars, their taxi parked in front of a sleek space lightened inside by much glass on its façade. After buying two tickets Penelope told her husband, "Siqueiros' portrait of his wife is perhaps the finest such work I've seen. It's over there, at the top of the staircase. We'll walk right into her enormous beautiful face."

They looked up at a blank wall behind the stairs.

"Where's his wife?" Penelope demanded in Spanish.

"She's being restored," an employee replied.

"What's wrong with her?"

The employee shrugged.

"Where are some of his other paintings and your exhibitions by other artists?"

"We really don't have any paintings up right now, but we do have a special exhibition around the corner and a film over there."

Around the corner there were piles of bricks next to shattered walls. Penelope and Clyde only glanced at the wall paragraph noting something about the artists building a site-specific structure, dining there, and then demolishing it. Siqueiros would've shot those guys.

The couple then heard strange unidentifiable sounds and opened black curtains to behold a movie screen that featured garbage being flung, by a person or people off-screen, onto an expanse of refuse.

"We better go see one of your movies," Clyde said.

They walked to a main street and waved at a taxi.

"To Casa del Arte," Penelope said.

"What?"

"Your great theaters on Anatoly France near the corner of Presidente Masaryk."

The cabbie silently drove to the location.

"Where is it?" she asked, and lunged out of the car, while Clyde paid, and marched into the building.

"Where's Casa del Arte?" she asked a uniformed man relaxing in the dim and dusty remains of the restaurant.

"They closed."

"When?"

"About a year ago."

"Why?"

"The economy. And technology for home movies."

"People in Polanco have plenty of money to pay to watch top films in a theater."

The man smiled.

Penelope pulled Clyde's hand, led him outside, and spoke to an older gentleman on the sidewalk. "I can't believe people in Polanco stopped supporting independent films."

"They may not have," he said. "The owner sold the theaters to a guy who's building a bowling alley."

"Too bad that's not finished," Clyde said. "Let's try to find a bullfight."

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Author's note: The male and female characters have been altered to protect their privacy.  To see the portrait of Siqueiros' wife that this couple missed, please click here.


George Thomas Clark is the author of Hitler Here, a biographical novel.  He can be contacted through his web page at http://www.GeorgeThomasClark.com/.


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