Thursday, February 27, 2020

La Vida Americana at the Whitney + Diego Rivera en La Palacio Nacionale y La Palacio des Bellas Artes

A large and satisfying Diego Rivera sketch in charcoal at La Vida Americana at the Whitney. Museum Link

Diego Rivera, Flower Festival: Feast of Santa Anita, 1931
Such a gorgeous painting! Look at its value structure and find the mask. 
Frida Kahlo
Kahlo with parrots
Etching by Rivera
Early Rivera on a hot pink wall
Fresco - the rhythm! How rhythmic group scenes--Duccio, Poussin, David--resonate throughout the history of painting.
Orozco: a mural semi-recreated in print at scale.
Orozco  - a smaller, framed work that speaks to the blistering imagery so broadly used, now been replaced by journalism.
The crops were left to dry and rot. There was nobody left to tend them.
Many migrants found work in the steel industry.
One of the curatorial feats of this exhibition is to incorporate the range of artists affected by migration, not only the muralists from Mexico to US to work on commissions and projects (Siqueiros 1927, Rivera 1930) but others moving as a result of societal shifts in the 1930s and early 1940s. Here,  Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series pertaining to the plight of immigrant workers from that time.
Apartments were bombed to get tenants out--specifically African American tenants.
Kerry James Marshall's great inspiration Charles White.
Jose Clemente Orozco, Study for Gods of the Modern World, 1930-34, preparations in gouache for his mural at the Baker Library at Dartmouth College (his third in the US).  The New Deal brought great cultural energy to the US, opening it to international culture as China would open later with Reform and Open. Wikipedia: "The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. It responded to needs for relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression."
"The mural is divided into two groupings, pre-Hispanic, from the migration to the Americas of Indigenous peoples through the height of the Aztec civilization, and modern, from the arrival of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes through today." Paraphrased from wall panel. It also states Jackson Pollock viewed the mural at Dartmouth and was inspired by Orozoco there. 

Orozco: Study for Ancient Human Sacrifice, 1930-34

Not sure who made. Taken by its mood and structure. The exhibition as a whole conjured the urgency of John Berger's A Painter of Our Time, set in 1956 when Soviet tanks enter Budapest. The protagonist, expatriate Hungarian painter Janos Lavin, disappears from London following a triumphant one-man show (Amazon paraphrase). The book explores the choices Lavin makes to maintain his integrity.  This in a time when the individual was considered primary.
David Alfero Siquieros: Zapata, 1931: champion of the poor.
Guston's Bombardment, 1937-8. A structural feat clearly related to Siqueiros' influence: glorious to see the relationships in context.
Reproduction of a mural by Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish, and Jules Langsner, The Struggle Against Terrorism, at the University of Michoacan museum. The young artists worked with Siqueiros in Los Angeles as members of the Bloc of Mural Painters, and traveled to Mexico to paint.
A moment
Proletariat Mother by Siquieros. An acclaimed muralist, he arrived in the US in 1927.

Fresco by Rivera. Rivera followed Siquieros to the US in 1930, completing three murals in San Francisco and a 27-panel mural at Detroit Institute of the Arts. Text describes how Rivera's impressions of American productive labor inspired post-Depression Americans in the New Deal.
Ben Shahn. In the New Deal, artists across the country painted murals in the 1930s, introducing regionalism, public art traditions extant today (MTA, as one example) and a new relationship between art and society. This also reframes abstract expressionism, but that's another conversation.
Guston's exquisite Study for Queensbridge Housing Project, 1939.
A gem by Thelma Johnson Streat, The Negro in Professional Life--Mural Study Featuring Women in the Workplace, 1944

Another deeply satisfying Rivera study, 1933
Detail for the New School mural, assisted by, among others, Ben Shahn. Rivera emphasized class struggle and violence in America, particularly African Americans, to honor the New School's progressive agenda.This open criticality fuels dialog and is evident everywhere in Mexico and graffiti throughout the world.
Mural studies and reproductions for Man at the Crossroads, a Rockefeller commission of three panels for  30 Rockefeller Plaza.The three panels represent capitalism and socialism, bound through productivity in the center, as a way to compare the two systems. After Rivera inserted an image of Lenin and a Russian parade and was asked by Rockefeller to remove them, he refused. The mural was painted over. The films Cradle Will Rock (1999) and Frida (2002) provide accounts. In Mexico, Rivera repainted the composition as Man, Controller of the Universe, at Palacio des Bellas Artes.

On a Thursday afternoon there were no less than five discussion groups throughout the show. How wonderful to sit and discuss the paintings in a group, surrounded by them. The museum is no longer a chapel.

Siqueiros developed the Experimental Workshop near Union Square in 1934, claiming artists could not paint current times with the techniques and materials of the past. 
Everyman: late Siqueiros.

Siqueiros, The Electric Forest, 1939, Nitrocellulose on cardboard.

Pollock's Landscape With Steer, 1936-7, made in Siquerios' Workshop, claiming it inspired Pollock's innovative pouring and staining.
The inclusion of Pollock and his teacher, Thomas Hart Benton, is one of the curatorial surprises in this exhibition. The relationship to Mexico and its artists who traveled to the US ground a deep visual tradition not clearly recognized in the US.

Siqueiros, 1947, Our Present Image
Mexico City, January 2020: the Diego Rivera Murals at Palace Museum, Zocalo.
Rivera was hired by the Mexican government in 1929 to decorate the Palace Museum after the Revolution. The purpose of the murals was to champion Mexican culture after Spanish colonial rule.
The opulent Maximalism, shift between grisaille border and stacked-space compositions, and integration with architecture in these murals is astounding. Not to mention the Venetian Red.

Right Side
Left Side

Art and architecture and life fuse as one.
And now the entire history of Mexico in the lower stairway, dividing Mexico into past, present, and future as a structure. The historic panel featuring Frida and her sister Cristina, as well as Lenin, represents Mexico's future.
The mural spans the Aztec period and colonial rule under the recently ousted Spanish leader Porfierio Diaz as well.

The fusion of art and life is thrilling.
And now, Propeller Man at La Palacio des Bellas Artes.

Other murals as well