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Exploring the paintings of the eccentric, ever-surprising Dr. Atl

October 3 is the birthday of a late Mexican who was called “one of the most curious personalities born in the modern New World” by muralist Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, today more commonly known as Diego Rivera.

I knew Dr. Atl was a painter and a volcanologist and that he had been born in Guadalajara—but not much more than that. So, although I am over 80 years of age, I decided to follow the custom of Gen Alpha when they want to learn about any subject: Go find a video on YouTube.

pg8aI came upon what I thought was a 25-minute documentary on Dr. Atl by Mexican cinematographer Jaime Kuri Aiza.

To my surprise, I got far more than I bargained for. That short film turned out not to be a typical documentary at all. I can only call it “an experience.”  Kuri used images and music to plunge me into Atl’s paintings, to force my eye to look where I wouldn’t ordinarily look. It was an extraordinary voyage and I strongly recommend you take the trip. In this short film, narration plays almost no role at all, so you will appreciate the effect even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish. Just look for “DR ATL (1982) de Jaime Kuri Aiza” on YouTube. Watch it, and, like me, you will then be curious to know more about the man whose paintings you have so delightfully explored.

But why did Diego Rivera consider Dr. Atl such an unusual character?

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