posted 2012-03-07 20:06:44

Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art

MoMA resurrects the artist’s work

Ignacio-Alexander Pintor, Contributing Writer

Diego Rivera is one of Mexico’s most celebrated and prominent artists. In the early 1930s, the Museum of Modern Art brought Rivera to New York and gave him studio space to work in. According to sources from MoMA, Diego Rivera worked with his assistants around the clock for six weeks and produced five fresco murals for the museum. Now for the first time in about 80 years, the murals are back on display in an exhibition titled “Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art,” which runs until May 2012.

The exhibition is a monument to the life and artistic achievements of the artist, as well as his messages about the horrible inequalities of capitalism. Rivera’s political views were no secret—he was an active communist, who made that theme clearly visible in the murals he painted during his time in New York. Although the artwork on display was created by Rivera about 80 years ago, it could not be any more relevant to the events the are taking place in our modern day.

Frozen Assets is a methodical image of the world through the eyes of today’s Occupy movement. The mural is one of three additional murals completed by Diego Rivera after the initial opening of the his 1931 solo exhibition at MoMA. Rivera added three more murals after realizing the success of his original five. The images of Frozen Asset are like a scene out of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis, and the two works share depictions of the bourgeoisie taking advantage of the proletariat.

The mural is a testament to Rivera’s Marx-influenced ideas that capitalism has enslaved mankind, and that innovation for the rich comes at the cost of citizen’s lives and individual identities. The work makes the lasting statement that industrialization takes everything from man, converting human into machine. Beginning at the top of the mural, one sees the towering city of New York under a bright sky. Touched with just the right amount of gray, a feeling of desperation is immediately palpable. Underneath is all the nebulous elegance of capitalism and industry, and the working man next to the watching guard. Further down, one notices a large, guarded bank vault, which administers the message that the working class are unfairly denied any access to the fruits of their labor.

While each mural carries great importance to Diego Rivera’s message against society’s inequalities, The Uprising is especially poignant, forcing the viewer to search into the deepest areas of their conscience. In the mural, an eye is immediately drawn toward a woman trying to fight off a soldier while holding her crying baby in her arm. A determination to fight is shown in the woman’s face, yet her determination is not to protect her own life and future, but instead to ensure a better life for her infant.

In the past, Diego Rivera’s life and work may have been overlooked as a result of his political views, or perhaps overshadowed by the work of his wife Frida Kahlo. However, Rivera’s work will surely continue to be a symbol of revolution, communicating the message that we must not relinquish the fight for our equalities. We must press on.