Though he is best known for his vibrant, expressive, domineering and poignant mural work, an upcoming exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA) will showcase a more delicate side to the process and output of renowned Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

Pulling from the private collection of Michael Wornick, a longtime collector of Latin American art, SJMA will be presenting a number of Orozco’s figure drawings—on view to the public for the first time, as part of the exhibition “Figure Studies,” running from March 13 through Sept. 13.

A key figure in the early Twentieth Century Mexican Muralism movement, Orozco was part of the “Los Tres Grandes,” a trio of Mexican muralists, which also includes contemporaries Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Orozco was initially drawn to the power of art while watching printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada work out of his engraving shop on his way to school. After initially studying agriculture at his family’s request, Orozco studied drawing at Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City. He continued working as an artist even after he lost his left hand in a fireworks accident at 21.

For those familiar with Orozco’s work, these drawings will serve as a minimal counterpoint to his mural work, notable in its scale and vibrancy. The exhibit will also provide a great opportunity for viewers to hone in on the nuance and precision that can be overlooked when examining his massive works. Here, Orozco focuses on the power of a gesture or the particular shape of tense muscles.

The intimacy of these pieces highlight the emotion present even in the details of his work, which often focused on human plight.

From 1927 to 1934, Orozco spent time in the U.S., crafting murals throughout the country. He painted a mural at Pomona College in 1930, which Orozco himself noted was the first fresco painted outside his native Mexico by a painter of the Contemporary Mexican School.

During this time, he also painted a series of 24 murals, collectively known as “The Epic of American Civilization,” at Dartmouth College. The series, designated a national historic landmark in 2013, later inspired artists Philip Guston and Jackson Pollock.

“Figure Studies,” a world premiere, will be a rare peek inside the preliminary steps Orozco took in constructing his grand pieces.

“Figure Studies”
Mar 13-Sep 13, $5-8
San Jose Museum of Art