José Clemente Orozco’s painting Prometheus, commissioned in 1930 for Pomona College’s Frary Dining Hall, is the first modern fresco in the United States. The work depicts the Greek Titan Prometheus stealing fire from the heavens to give to humans. Through this, Orozco pays tribute to the Mexican ideology of bringing enlightenment for a brighter future. Fire is highly symbolic throughout his personal history- being both a sign of progress and unappreciation for his efforts. This artwork also shows how Mexico’s mural movement spread beyond its roots, as Prometheus can be seen as the start of foreign expansion.
American Civilization (1932), another mural by Orozco shown at Pomona College conveys a similar message from a different perspective – that of modern civilization. Once more, he paints with hope and ambition as he celebrates figures such as Columbus and Edison as ‘Gods’ of modernity while still honoring Mexican heroes such Quetzalcóatl and Cuauhtémoc. Engraving these characters in our imagination is his way of showing familiarity with conquering an unfamiliar future through boldness and dedication. His dynamic style was groundbreaking for its time, inspiring new generations to acknowledge foreign cultures and stories that needed further exploration.