Painting on the walls, with social commentary

Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art 1925-1945

Whitney Museum of American Art

Man, Controller of the Universe
In 1934 the Rockefeller Corporation commissioned Diego Rivera to paint a fresco in the Rockefeller Center Tower. The completed work included a portrait of Vladmir Lenin. Nelson Rockefeller asked Rivera to erase the portrait. He refused and Rockefeller Corp. destroyed the mural. Rivera recreated a version of it at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City and titled it Man, Controller of the Universe. This is a reproduction of that work.

The Whitney’s most recent exhibit is dedicated to the influence of a group of Mexican muralists who emerged following the Mexican Revolution which ended in 1920. It focuses on three artists: José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. All of them spent some time in the U.S. and created some murals here. The exhibit also features the works of some of the artists, both American and Mexican, who were influenced by the muralists.

Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato in 1886. He was an atheist and member of the Mexican Communist Party, though he was later expelled from the party for being a Trotskyite. Rivera studied art in both Paris and Italy. He created murals in San Francisco, Detroit and New York. The artist Frida Kahlo was the fourth of his five wives. They married in 1929, divorced in 1939, and then remarried in 1940.

Portrait of America, Diego Rivera
This is a study for part of Rivera’s 21-panel Portrait of America that he painted for the Communist New Workers School in New York in 1933.

Jose Clemente Orozco

Jose Clemente Orozco was born in 1883 in what is now Ciudad Guzman. When he was 21, he lost his left hand while making fireworks. He is best known for political murals. He lived in the U.S. from 1927-34 and he painted murals in New York, California and at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He also illustrated John Steinbeck’s The Pearl.

This is part of a reproduction of Prometheus, a mural which Orozco painted at Pomona College’s Frary Dining Hall in Claremont, Calif.
Christ Destroying His Cross
Christ Destroying His Cross reproduces one of the panels that was part of Orozco’s mural at Dartmouth College.

David Alfaro Siqueiros

David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in Chichuahua in 1896. By the age of 18 he was a member of the Constitutional Army fighting the government of Victoriano Huerta. He would be a political activist throughout his life. He lived and worked in Los Angles for a spell in the 1930’s but was deported by the U.S. government. In 1938 he was fighting in Spain against Franco and back home in 1940 he led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Trotsky who was in exile in Mexico. In 1960 he was imprisoned after leading protests against the arrest of striking workers and teachers.

Self Portrait with Mirror
Self Portrait with Mirror
The Struggle Against Terrorism
This is a reproduction of The Struggle Against Terrorism, a mural painted in a two story courtyard at the University of Michoacan in Morelia, Mexico. It was painted by Philip Guston and Reuben Kadish, two artists who trained with Siqueiros in Los Angeles, and by Jules Langsner
The Protector, Alfredo Ramos Martinez
The Protector, Alfredo Ramos Martinez
Zapatistas, Alfredo Ramos Martinez
Man and Woman, Ruffino Tamayo
Man and Woman, Ruffino Tamayo
Woman of Tehuantepec, Tina Modotti
Woman of Tehuantepec, Tina Modotti
Me and My Parrots, Frida Kahlo
Me and My Parrots, Frida Kahlo
The Driller, Harold Lehman
The Driller, Harold Lehman
Motherhood, Mardonio Magaria
Motherhood, Mardonio Magaria
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4 Responses to Painting on the walls, with social commentary

  1. Henry Lewis says:

    Some of my absolute favorite artists are represented here. Mexico City is a treasure trove of their original work! Thanks Ken!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. BroadBlogs says:

    So beautiful and emotive!

    Liked by 1 person

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