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The Arts Voyager, 3-22: Art-full Politics
Diego Rivera returns to MOMA

Diego Rivera, "Frozen Assets," 1931-32. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 94 1/8 x 74 3/16" (239 x 188.5 cm). Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico. ©2011 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

By Dance Insider Staff

It's a prescient reunion: In December 1931, two years after its founding, the Museum of Modern Art opened a major exhibition of work by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Only the second retrospective presented at the young Museum, the show was wildly popular, breaking attendance records in its five-week run. Rivera's international celebrity was based on his fame as a muralist, but murals -- by definition made and fixed on site -- were impossible to transport. To solve this problem, MOMA brought the artist to New York from Mexico six weeks before the opening and provided him with makeshift studio space in an empty gallery. Working around the clock with three assistants, Rivera produced five "portable murals" -- free-standing frescoes with bold images commemorating events in Mexican history. After the opening, to great publicity, Rivera added three more murals, this time taking on New York subjects through monumental images of the urban working class and the social stratification of the city during the Great Depression. All eight works were on display for the rest of the show's run.


Diego Rivera, "Electric Power," 1931-32. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 58 1/16 x 94 1/8" (147.5 x 239 cm). Private collection, Mexico. ©2011 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


The first of these panels, Agrarian Leader Zapata, is an icon in the Museum's collection. This exhibition reunites five of the murals Rivera produced for this extraordinary commission, presenting them at MOMA for the first time in nearly 80 years. Along with mural panels, the show will include full-scale drawings, smaller working drawings, archival materials related to the commission and production of these works, and designs for Rivera's famous Rockefeller Center mural, which he also produced while working at the museum. Focused specifically on works created during the artist's stay in New York, this exhibition offers a fresh look at the intersection of art-making and radical politics in the 1930s. Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art, which will only be presented at MOMA, continues through May 14.


Diego Rivera, "The Uprising," 1931. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 74 x 94 1/8" (188 x 239 cm). Private collection, Mexico. ©2011 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, México, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Left: Diego Rivera. "Agrarian Leader Zapata," 1931. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 93 ¾ x 74" (238.1 x 188 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund. Right: Diego Rivera, "Cartoon for Agrarian Leader Zapata," 1931. Charcoal on paper, 98 3/8 x 78" (250 x 198 cm). Private collection, Mexico. Both images ©2011 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Diego Rivera, "Indian Warrior," 1931. Fresco on reinforced cement in a metal framework, 41 x 52 1/2" (104.14 x 133.35 cm). Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts. Purchased with the Winthrop Hillyer Fund SC 1934:8-1. ©2011 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.



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