Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art

By - Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Long before aerosol paint ever graced the surface of the steel giants running throughout the boroughs, muralists transformed walls into their canvases and created images that spoke volumes. The Mexican Muralists in particular found their voice and spoke for their community through paintings that were as social and political as they were artistic. The Museum of Modern Art is currently showing an exhibition of one of the leading artists of the Mexican Muralist movement, Diego Rivera. Rivera is famous for his large murals, which are scattered on the walls of historic buildings thorough Mexico and the United States. To be able to exhibit an artist whose original work is permanently in place, the MoMA flew Rivera out to New York in 1931, where he worked day and night with two assistants in the six weeks leading up to the show, in order to create eight “portable murals” on site. The current exhibition displays these eight original pieces together again, in addition to other drawings and sketches by the artist. Rivera’s work features all types of classy genres for a Sunday afternoon visit, such as economic class struggle, capitalism versus communism, industrialism, and fresco–a finicky Renaissance-era style of painting. The exhibition also addresses the controversy behind a mural that Rivera painted in Rockefeller Center, which completed in 1933, was torn down shortly after. As an avid communist, Rivera had painted the face of Russian Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin on the right side of the mural (below, with the moustache), and refused to change the image to look like anyone else. A replica of this mural can be found at El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, under the title El Hombre en Cruce de Caminos (Man at the Crossroads). And if that doesn’t interest you, maybe how Rivera and fellow artist Frida Kahlo (she paints self portraits with a unibrow and moustache—you’ve seen it) had a messy marriage full of gun shots, infidelity, the fleeing of communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky to Kahlo and Rivera’s house in Mexico—where Kahlo proceeded to have an affair with Trotsky right before he was shot by the Russian government, a divorce due to Rivera cheating on Kahlo with her sister, and their subsequent remarriage—might grab your attention. The exhibition runs through May 14th, 2012 at the Museum of Modern Art.

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