Orozco returned to Mexico in 1934, following a seven-year spell in the United States, and began work on a new public mural, "Catharsis", commissioned for the Palace of Fine Arts. Its central character, a green-tinged prostitute known as “La Chata,” lies upside-down, her body splayed open against an apocalyptic sea of infernal technology, industrial wreckage, and corrupt bureaucracy. Orozco had experimented with lithography during his time in New York, and he made a number of prints based on "Catharsis", among them "Mujeres" (also known as Dead Woman). The lurid, gendered deviance of "Catharsis" is concentrated in the lithograph, which introduces a nightmarish chorus of women whose exaggerated features evoke those of “La Chata” and suggest their own, coming demise. Two men wrestle above her, their tilting center of gravity a metaphor for the spiraling social and moral decay of the postrevolutionary state, here personified—and demonized—in the female body. Orozco renders the grotesque morbidity of the "Mujeres" with graphic economy and clarity, notably in the stark, black-and-white contrast of “La Chata.”
This text was created in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and written by Patricia Ortega-Miranda.