Diego Rivera Blog

Rivera paintings – inspiration for fashion and book


Feb 28 2012 08:56PM | by Staff Editor

We’re wondering how Diego Rivera, the ardent Mexican communist and left-wing artist, would feel about being the latest inspiration for a New York hipster strutting his or her stuff during what we presume was a hedonistic, consumerist orgy of capitalist desire and want. Oh yes, the American gringo with their better than average GDP, consuming their way to insanity – or in New York, perhaps Linsanity at the way the Knicks are going – as the masses continue to suffer in poverty. We know we’re going a little far, but maybe that is how he would have felt given the latest collection from designer Steven Alan. To be clear, we’re fans of Alan’s clothes. We’re just trying to imagine Rivera’s response to being cited as the primary influence for a trendy fashion consumable. It could be that he would be flattered, considering Alan is really more referencing simple – and by implication, peasant – styled clothing of the Mexican people. As he told online news source Fashionista: “The inspiration was Diego Rivera, the exhibit at the MOMA. We went there–myself and my design team, and we just loved the whole thing–you know, the canvases, and the cement.  We started pulling... Read more

Rivera Still Playing Second Fiddle


Jan 22 2012 09:42PM | by Staff Editor

The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada, has been putting on back to back blockbuster shows since it reopened in 2008 following its extensive redevelopment lead by noted architect Frank Gehry. This winter they hosted Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde, an exhibition of work by Russian Modernist Marc Chagall, this summer they will be the only Canadian venue to host Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris as it continues on its round the world tour, and a recent announcement of an upcoming exhibition in the fall is likely to keep the visitors pouring in. Last week the museum announced that Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting will be due to open in October of this year, and it is likely that continuing the trend of showing big name artists will help to ensure that the gallery can draw huge crowds. Those crowds are essential in helping to cover the costs of the sizable renovations that increased viewing space in the gallery by around 47 percent. Predictably, most media coverage of the announcement and of the details surrounding the show focused almost exclusively on Kahlo, with Rivera being mentioned almost as an afterthought. But this is in... Read more

Restorative Fountain


Dec 27 2011 01:35PM | by Staff Editor

Diego Rivera has been in and out of the news with a higher rate of frequency than we are used to over the course of the last few months. The much-anticipated reunion of Rivera’s murals at the Museum of Modern Art in New York picked up plenty of column inches, in part thanks to the exhibition’s coincidental timing with the Occupy protests that were going on in the city. Then there were his 125th birthday celebrations at the end of November and the ingenious Google Doodle that was created for the occasion that referenced his career and many of his most famous works. Well Rivera is now in danger of stealing the spotlight back from Frida Kahlo as a recently restored piece of his outdoor artwork has been unveiled in Mexico City. Unusually for the Mexican Muralist, the work is not a mural or an oil painting, but is an integrated sculpture and fountain. Rivera’s interests extended beyond the canvas or the wall, and he was known as an avid collector of pre-Columbian pottery and indigenous folk art, and for his experiments with sculpture and architecture. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, most of these experiments can only be... Read more

Rivera’s Greatest Work


Dec 25 2011 09:16PM | by Staff Editor

The work that Mexican Muralist Diego Rivera considered to the best of his esteemed and illustrious career isn’t a fresco on a wall in his native Mexico. Nor is it a Rivera oil painting hanging on a gallery wall, although that’s getting a bit closer to the truth. No, the work that Rivera was most proud of, and the work that he felt represented the pinnacle of his artistic craft was in fact a commissioned work at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, which features imagery depicting a factory of the Detroit based Ford Motor Company. While it may not initially sound like the Rivera that we know and love, a closer look at the work highlights the ideas and symbolism that permeated his oeuvre throughout his career. The project came about when in 1932 Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and president of the Ford company, and William Valentiner, the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, commissioned Rivera to paint two murals for the museum's Garden Court. The only rule they gave him was that the work must relate to the history of Detroit and the development of industry. Prior to starting work on the murals... Read more

Rivera murals reunited, as does controversy


Nov 30 2011 05:59PM | by Staff Editor

In true capitalist style Diego Rivera would have probably derided the way that the Museum of Modern Art, New York, has publicised and much capitalised on the recent protests and social unrest to unveil their much-anticipated exhibition, Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art. To be clear, we’re not suggesting the museum planned the exhibition in light of the Wall Street Protests – we’re simply appreciating the social irony of the timing and the works contained in the murals. One of the underlying beliefs of Rivera’s paintings was that they were public works of art: they were created for the masses to educate and liberate their lives. Well, the masses have certainly responded in droves to see the latest Rivera exhibition – not only are tickets sold out for months, the popular lecture series that often accompany MoMA exhibitions are also sold out. Since the subject of this post is the irony of the exhibition, why not feature a lecture (sold out) given by Jodi Roberts (PhD, ABD, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University), who is a specialist in 20th-century art from Latin America? Dr Roberts examines Rivera’s artwork at the intersection of radical politics and art... Read more

Rivera, Occupy Wall Street, Communism, Capitalism


Nov 21 2011 11:18AM | by Staff Editor

Economics, politics and art are curious creatures who when bred together create all kinds of headaches… or entertainment. The struggle between the three could possibly only be exacerbated with the introduction of religion – thank goodness we won’t have to incorporate that into this post. Diego Rivera is an artist who represents the amalgamation of all three – a political animal who protested against the economic policies of many countries, he would have felt at home in today’s Occupy Wall Street protests, no doubt ironically reflecting on the fact that ever since his death nothing really has changed. To add even more insult to injury, his oil paintings are now traded among the elite, some sold into private collections never to be seen by the masses – the direct opposite of his rationale behind his mural art. In fact, two Rivera paintings sold for significantly high prices in Mexico City earlier this month. The two paintings in question were part of the Morton auction house sale of Latin American artists held on November 10. The Rivera paintings sold for a total of 9.6 million pesos or USD $709,000. The most expensive painting, the 1929 Tehuna portrait, sold for USD $406,000,... Read more

Diego Rivera, revolution and love


Oct 30 2011 11:21AM | by Staff Editor

It is simply mind boggling sometimes to imagine how the world would be without one influence on the other. In academic circles this type of reasoning is called “Counter factual” i.e., what would have happened counter to the actual facts. What would have happened if Russia developed the first atomic weapon, instead of the United States? What would have happened if Hitler didn’t push deep into Russian territory? For one, most Europeans would be speaking more German than English, we’d suspect. The same can be said for Rivera paintings and their inspiration from the Mexican Revolution and communism. What would have happened if Porfirio Díaz had not amassed such power as he did? Would Diego Rivera and his paintings and murals still have such impact? A quick lesson in Mexican history is in order. José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was initially a hero of the Mexican people, after successful campaigns against the Americans and French. An accomplished general, he then ruled Mexico as president from 1876 to 1911. While his rule was initially welcomed, his continuous time in power corrupted the government and eventually he was seen as a dictator – his regime grew increasingly corrupt, repressive and... Read more

Diego Rivera paintings live on generationally


Oct 18 2011 10:19AM | by Staff Editor

Diego Rivera, the prominent Mexican painter and muralist, was as famous for womanising as he was for painting. That may sound a bit harsh at first glance, but when you consider the fact he had numerous affairs, including one with Frida Kahlo’s sister when the couple were married, well, the prosecution rests its case. We’re not here to judge the man or his morals – we’re merely pointing out that through his affairs he had multiple children, and thus grandchildren. Growing up famous is a hard thing to do, so it was refreshing to hear some insights from Rivera’s grandson, Diego Lopez Rivera, who recently spoke at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art. This younger Rivera was in town as a guest speaker on a mural painting workshop, an art form that made his grandfather famous. Rule number one of mural painting – the plaster has to be wet when you start painting, or else the pigment and colour won’t be truly absorbed. But we digress – what did Rivera have to say about his grandfather? To begin with, Lopez Rivera remains intimately involved with his genetic heritage – he is the director of the Diego Rivera Foundation in Mexico... Read more

Kahlo and Rivera paintings together - again


Oct 02 2011 12:21PM | by Staff Editor

Well, it seems you can’t get one without the other, and really, one without the other might not be one at all (inspired by Gertrude Stein here!). Another exhibition is set to hit England’s fine shores, and, once again, Mexican art power couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are intertwined tightly in each other’s embrace. The Pallant House Gallery is presenting Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Masterpieces from the Gelman Collection and the exhibition certainly contains oil paintings that can’t be missed from two of Mexico’s greatest modernist painters. Among the key Rivera paintings on show are Calla Lily Vendors (1943), which has all the classic Rivera characteristics. Lily vendors are hard at work, seemingly overwhelmed by their gigantic bundles of flowers they carry to sell each day. But, it seems, Rivera says that the beauty of their hard and honest work is reflected in the lilies they sell - unlike the capitalist parasites he so opposed as an ardent communist. The Rivera painting, of course, is just one part of the Gelman Collection, the world’s most significant private holding of Mexican art. The Gelman Collection’s name comes from Jacques Gelman, a Russian by birth but Jewish by ethnicity. Gelman... Read more

A Rivera exhibition in paintings, capitalism, California and communism


Sep 18 2011 07:39PM | by Staff Editor

Pop quiz hot shot: where was the location of Diego Rivera’s first commissioned fresco that was outside of Mexico? In Russia or Cuba, one of the fellow communist strongholds of the time? What about China (that’s a trick, of course, so think carefully). Well, it was none of these. The first country to host a Rivera fresco was the United States of Capitalism, oh wait, America. And the state was California, at The City Club of San Francisco. What? That’s right, the fact isn’t that well known, but San Fran’s popular party and wedding venue can lay claim to some serious artistic history. The club’s architectural roots lie in the art deco era and its inspiration was an unabashed tribute to American capitalism. This year the club celebrated its 80th birthday – so naturally, they are happy to claim as much attention as they can get. The celebration of its mural, of course, shows that Rivera, as much as he was a committed Communist, needed to eat, and painting led to food in his mouth. His mural for the City Club was entitled Allegory of California and it was finished in the summer of 1931. The work is huge –... Read more

A trip down lovers’ lane with Rivera and Kahlo


Sep 04 2011 09:56PM | by Staff Editor

Sometimes it’s hard to separate Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. More often than not their work is exhibited side by side, and nearly any mention of the two or their artwork is linked to one another. Rivera’s influence on Kahlo, or Kahlo’s influence on Rivera paintings, are topics of endless debate between art critics and historians. The fact of the matter is, if one wants to understand the couple, a great deal can be learnt from taking a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and travelling to Mexico to retrace the steps through the paintings and heirlooms they left behind. So where do you start? Rivera was, of course, the dominant figure throughout their relationship. He was the more internationally acclaimed star; in Mexico, and after his death, he was recognised for reintroducing the frescoes to a new generation of viewers and painters. Rivera paintings honouring the working class and peasants also struck a chord for their simplicity and strength – the conviction of his Communist ideals were there for everyone to see. But where can we find physical evidence of the life of Rivera? To start with, a visit to the suburb of San Angel, where one can find the house where Rivera... Read more

Rivera breaking down the mural moves – again


Aug 22 2011 09:51AM | by Staff Editor

Diego Rivera was a man with an artistic reputation as wide as his girth. In death, while it seems his physical girth would logically decrease with decomposition, his artwork and reputation has assuredly not. In fact, his reputation has increased and exhibitions containing his work, and Frida Kahlo’s work, continues to grow. The latest exhibition will feature several movable Rivera murals, to be shown for the first time together in 80 years since their inception at New York’s The Museum of Modern Art in 1931. The five main Rivera murals featured in this retrospective will be: Agrarian Leader Zapata (1931), Indian Warrior (1931), The Uprising (1931), Frozen Assets (1932) and Electric Power (1932); another three prototype movable murals that will be part of this series are Liberation of the Peon (1931), Sugar Cane (1931), and Pneumatic Drilling (1932). The first obvious problem with designing a mural exhibition within a building is how to present the work without degrading the Rivera murals. By definition, murals are made on site and often on walls and fences which cannot be moved. Thus, in 1931, the museum invited Rivera to New York for six weeks where he was given a large amount of studio... Read more

Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, Diego Rivera and Kahlo


Jul 24 2011 10:04PM | by Staff Editor

Today we bring all the Diego Rivera oil painting aficionados out there a special treat: a succinct tasting plate review of an award-winning novel which celebrates its first birthday this November, 2011. That novel is Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, which won the author the 2010 Orange prize for fiction, along with £30,000 of prize money. It is, by most accounts, an ambitious and epic novel that encompasses the Mexican revolution, crazed communist witch-hunts of 1950s American, along with a lush portrayal of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo as central support characters around the book’s protagonist. Starting in 1929, the book chronicles the life of Harrison Shepherd, a half-American, half-Mexican boy who spends his early life growing up in Mexico, a country he finds himself in after his mum left his accountant father for more wealthy prospects down south. The novel itself is a compilation of diaries, letters, newspaper reports and congressional transcripts used to tell Shepherd’s life; much of his formative years are detailed in his personal diary, and the book is largely successful in weaving a successful narrative through this approach. While we don’t have the space to expound and review The Lacuna in its entirety, it is safe... Read more

Mexi-whhaaatt? Diego Rivera, Kahlo, and their Jewish origins


Jul 11 2011 11:46AM | by Staff Editor

Read any biography, blog post or news article about Mexico’s most famous past and present painting pair and you glean a few things about how they identified themselves. They were painters, communist and Mexican. But did you ever hear that they were Jewish, and that this part of their identity had a significant effect on how they viewed and acted in the world? The Jewish Chronicle Online’s writer Jennifer Lipman provides the evidence for this fascinating, often unpublished, aspect of the painters’ lives. According to historical records, Rivera’s mother was a Converso, a group of Jews whose ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism. To be clear, Rivera was never raised in Judaism and he later declared himself an atheist. However, throughout his life he made allusions to his broad and shared cultural experiences. In 1935 he wrote: “My Jewishness is the dominant element in my life. From this has come my sympathy with the downtrodden masses which motivates all my work.” In 1936 he also provided illustrations for a book by noted Yiddish poet Isaac Berliner. As it is well known, Rivera went on to become Mexico’s most famous mural painter. By the 1920s his artwork was nearly... Read more

Diego Rivera’s influence today: a concerto, Kenyan painter and an upcoming protégé?


May 24 2011 10:47AM | by Staff Editor

Mexican muralist painter Diego Rivera proudly lived and painted by the belief that art was for all people, workers and peasants alike. He traveled the word spreading his beliefs, from Europe to the United States of America, South America and Russia (without neglecting his native Mexico). The fact that so many artists today claim inspiration from his work is testament to his talent and the purity of his message. Recently, orchestras have begun performing a Detroit Symphony Orchestra- commissioned a concerto named Fire and Blood after him, while a noted Kenyan painter and an award-winning young artist have claimed inspiration to varying degrees. Let’s start with the violin and orchestra concerto named Fire and Blood. Composer Michael Daugherty was given an extra-musical link: the work should reflect Rivera’s great murals of the 1930s which were painted outside the Detroit Institute of Arts. The ensuing creation follows the traditional three movement map with corresponding titles of Volcano, River Rouge and Assembly Line. For the Rivera and Kahlo aficionados reading, the titles are of course intimately related to Rivera paintings and those of his wife Frida, and their short time in Detroit together. We’d encourage anyone thinking of seeing and hearing the... Read more

A Mural Controversy Worthy of Diego Rivera


May 03 2011 10:10AM | by Staff Editor

A mural in Augusta, Maine has been the subject of a large amount of controversy this month. Some declared it inappropriate for inclusion in a public, nonpartisan location. Some felt it showed a decidedly leftist point of view. The powers agreed and removed the mural. Sound familiar? The plight of this particular mural brings to mind a similar story about Diego Rivera, and many reporters are revisiting his mural and the controversy it engendered as background information. The Maine mural was displayed in the lobby of the state's Department of Labor building. The artist, Judy Taylor, completed the work with the help of a $60,000 federal arts grant. The mural depicts, among other things, a history of labor in the state, showing workers on strike and workers talking with a famous labor activist. Maine's governor, Paul LePage, stated that he received multiple complaints about the mural. The office released one letter, rather than releasing a list of all complaints they had fielded. This letter states, "In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement. I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where... Read more

Diego Rivera Artwork in Super Bowl Advertising


Apr 26 2011 03:18PM | by Staff Editor

Many people watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials. Ads that debut during the Super Bowl are typically lavish, lengthy affairs that come at the end of many meetings and come at a high price. While it's not unheard of for a company to make a misstep during a Super Bowl commercial, it seems unlikely, given the amount of planning that goes into making such an important spot. So we were surprised, to say the least, at one Chrysler ad and it gave us much food for thought. The ad begins with a voiceover, discussing the city of Detroit. A black Chrysler car is teasingly just out of sight, but many images of famous structures in Detroit flash up on the screen. Featured prominently is the mural by Diego Rivera, "Detroit Industry." At first glance, this seems a strange mural to include in a pro-industry commercial. In the mural, workers bend to their tasks in faceless, nameless rows while their supervisors lean over them. Many people add up money over small calculators. It seems this mural could be interpreted as a condemnation of the nature of assembly line work. It could be said that this mural suggests that this... Read more

Diego Rivera Murals Continue to Teach and Inspire


Apr 10 2011 05:14PM | by Staff Editor

Teaching high school students can be challenging. Attempting to capture their attention, while competing with cell phones, iPods and electronic reading devices can be a full-time occupation. Many schools attempt to overcome this barrier by engaging students through art. Teaching students how to express themselves, using former artists as an example, allows them to explore their own thoughts in a meaningful way while they learn. Spanish students in Cleveland, Ohio, spent much of this school year learning about Diego Rivera, learning how art, politics and self-expression interconnect. Diego Rivera is widely considered one of the most important Mexican artists that ever lived. Artwork by Diego Rivera is often political, and often controversial. Images such as Flower Vendor by Diego Rivera can spark discussions about the poor laboring to provide luxuries for the rich. Peasants takes this idea yet further, warping human figures into simple tools. Diego Rivera murals were yet more controversial, often including political figures and inflammatory text. In order to complete their immersion in Rivera, their teacher, Olivia Fatica, chose to hold a two-day art workshop. Here, the students would work with the artist Augusto Bordelois to generate their own mural. All told, 133 students from six Spanish classes... Read more