Hector Duarte was born in 1952 in Caurio, Michoacan, Mexico. He studied mural painting at the workshop of David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1977. Since moving to Chicago in 1985, Duarte has participated in the creation of more than 45 murals. He has exhibited his paintings and prints in solo and collective shows at such venues as the School of the Art Institute, the State of Illinois Gallery, the Chicago Historical Society, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, and Casa Estudio Museo Diego Rivera in Mexico.
Duarte has received a number of awards, including a 1995 Chicago Bar Association Award for best work of public art and a 1994 National Endowment for the Arts project grant. Duarte is the co-founder of the Julio Ruelas Print Workshop in Zacatecas, Mexico, La Casa de la Cultura in Zamora, Mexico, and Taller Mestizarte in Chicago.
Hector Duarte Artist’s Statement
While I have exhibited work in a number of different media, including prints, installations, and paint, my passion is mural painting. I prefer murals because more people are able to enjoy my work; I am not painting for the privileged or for museums.
My artistic goal in mural painting has been to continue the Siqueiros tradition of “dynamic symmetry,” which is a compositional method tying the structure of the mural to the physical architecture, taking into consideration the movements and perspectives of the viewer. This method views mural painting as an organic activity that must be composed and resolved on the wall.
I tend to use bright colors—I attribute this to my Latin American origins, where the presence of the sun influences our view of color—but have a very broad palette. I use recognizable symbols and images that dramatize life to Latinos here in the U.S. These have included corn, images from the Day of the Dead, and the Loteria game as well as the heart, which has both pre- and post-Colombian religious significance and is something all people can identify with. I usually choose themes that deal with the local community in some way or themes that speak to all of us.
While I consider myself to be part of the Mexican Mural tradition and the Barrio Mural Movement here in the U.S., I also feel a strong obligation as a creative person to continue innovating. I am interested in taking the mural, which some people consider to be a static or even outdated art form, to new levels. I have experimented with using all six sides of the room, for instance, and have sought out new instruments with which to paint as well as objects that can change the viewer’s perspective of the mural, such as mirrors or different types of light or paint.
Since I believe strongly that the technique to take the mural to new heights will be that practiced by Siqueiros, I have dedicated myself to teaching his methods to other muralists. Thus I like to work in collaboration—even though this can be a challenging process—and I have dedicated much of my time to teaching mural painting to young people.