Published: October 25, 2011
For the exhibition “Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art,” MoMA will reunite five “portable murals” †freestanding frescoes with bold images commemorating events in Mexican history †that were made for a monographic exhibit of the artist’s work at the museum in 1931.
On view November 13 to May 14, the exhibition will also feature three, 8-foot working drawings, a prototype “portable mural” made in 1930, as well as smaller working drawings, watercolors and prints by Rivera. It will also include design drawings for his infamous Rockefeller Center mural.
Comprising works from MoMA’s collection and loans from private and public collections in the United States and Mexico, “Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art” is organized by Leah Dickerman, curator, department of painting and sculpture at MoMA.
In organizing the 1931 exhibition, the museum had to solve a key problem †how to present the work of this famous muralist when murals were by definition made and fixed on site. In light of these circumstances, the museum invited Rivera to New York six weeks before the opening, and gave him studio space in an empty gallery in the museum’s original building. Working around the clock with three assistants, Rivera produced five “portable murals” †large blocks of frescoed plaster, concrete and steel that feature bold images commemorating Mexican history and addressing themes of revolution and class inequity.
After the exhibition’s opening, Rivera added three more murals, now 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 were on display for the duration of the exhibition’s run; the first of these panels, “Agrarian Leader Zapata,” later joined MoMA’s collection.
Focused specifically on works made during the artist’s stay in New York, “Diego Rivera” creates a succinct portrait of Rivera as a highly cosmopolitan figure who moved between Europe, Mexico and the United States, and offers a fresh look at the intersection of art making and radical politics in the 1930s.
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