SLM Cultura Article – Issue 41 – by Tlecu Omitl

The “Father of Mexican Art” work has till this day influenced and revived the way art is portrayed in many ways of life. Only because of the way he seen life and displayed them in his work. So as we continue with the life of this extraordinary being, he returned from Russia in 1928 and met the soon to be famous Frida Kahlo at one of Tina Modotti’s weekly parties. In 1928 he was appointed director of the Academy of San Carlos. Hen then began proposing sweeping changes in the curriculum that drew huge criticism from the conservative administration. He also began work on his comprehensive history of the Mexican nation on the stairway of the Palacio Nacional, paints six large nudes, symbolizing purity, strength, knowledge, life, continence, and health in the conference room of the Secretaría de Salubridad y Asistencia. In August he marries his third wife Frida in Coyoacán and expelled from the Mexican communist party for disobedience to its policies and for siding with Trotsky after he was banished from Russia by Stalin.

Diego Rivera has even influenced and traveled to The United States of America for artwork. U.S. ambassador Dwight W. Morrow, who was considered one of the most terrible enemies that Mexico has ever had and also a total capitalist, commissions Rivera to paint a mural for the loggia of the Palacio de Cortés in Cuernavaca which was to denigrate what the Spaniards did to America. Diego himself was ninety percent Spaniard so he was criticizing his own nature in the frescoes. This is a good example of how Rivera was a communist and a nationalist but he would let his ideological opponents to economically support his revolutionary work. For many, this put in doubt the integrity of his ideals financially. In 1930 Diego finishes the murals at Cuernavaca, forced to resign as director of San Carlos and arrives in San Francisco in Mid-November for a large Rivera retrospective exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. In 1931 Rivera finishes “The making of fresco,” on Allegory of California in the Gallery of the California School of arts. Then arrives in New York in December for his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art of New York. 

In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, the Art commission of the City of Detroit approves Valentiner’s proposal that Rivera be commissioned to paint murals for the garden Court of the Detroit Institute of Art. Completed in 1933, the piece depicted industrial life in the United States, concentrating on the car plant workers of Detroit. Rivera’s radical politics and independent nature had begun to draw criticism during his early years in America. Though the fresco was the focus of much controversy, Edsel Ford, Henry’s son, defended and funded the work and it remains today Rivera’s most significant painting in America. Rivera, Frank Brangwyn, and José María Sert are commissioned to create nine murals in the main corridor of the lobby of the RCA building in New York.

In 1933 the Rockefellers commissioned Rivera to paint a mural for the lobby of the RCA building in Rockefeller Center. “Man at the Crossroads” was to depict the social, political, industrial, and scientific possibilities of the twentieth century. Abby A. Rockefeller visits the mural site and praises the section depicting the Soviet May Day demonstrations. Nelson Rockefeller asks Rivera to replace the face of Lenin with that of an anonymous individual. Rivera offers to substitute Abraham Lincoln and the other 19th century North American figures for a group opposite Lenin and the RCA dismisses Rivera and covers the wall. Rivera begins painting at the New Workers School and in December the public showing of the panels and nightly lectures. Rivera and Kahlo sail for Mexico and on arrival move into their newly finished residence in San Angel.
In 1934 the RCA murals are destroyed in February, and Rivera started the murals of the National Palace in

Mexico city. This would become one of his most important works. This mural was commissioned in 1929 during the presidency of Emilio Portes Gil. The topic of this mural is the history of Mexico from the fall of Teotihuacan, about A.D. 900 to the beginning of the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas in 1935. The mural of the National Palace is considered one of the most compendious visual displays of historical material in near human scale in the history of art. The different frescoes are organized in two parts: From the pre-Hispanic civilization to the conquest and from the conquest to the future. He chose to introduce his chronological narrative with a mythological version of ancient life and religion in the valley of Mexico, presented from the social revolutionary perspective that is in dissociable from Mexico’s historical experience and its new consciousness as a self-governing people. In June Rivera signs a contract to reproduce the RCA murals on a wall at the Palacio de Bella Artes in Mexico City and in November Rivera begins his smaller version of the RCA mural. In 1935 he continues working on the stairway at the Palacio Nacional, which he completed on November 20.
With the life of Diego so intricate and complex, he is seen as one of the most influenced person in Mexican history. So stay tuned for the last segment in Special Collection Issue 39.

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