Diego Rivera Research Paper

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The Politics & Controversies of Diego Rivera's Murals: The Rockefeller Center and the Detroit Industry Murals By Katie Tapia-Lynch Fall 2014 AH 5780: Debating Museums It was a time of increasing divide in the United States when Diego Rivera’s murals in Mexico captured the interest of the U.S. public during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Rivera visited the U.S. in the 1930s to complete multiple mural commissions, including the central courtyard of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the walls of the Radio City of America building at Rockefeller Center in New York City. These two murals were created at the height of his career and during the Great Depression. The production of these murals, as well as the way in which the…show more content…
The capitalist society is represented on the left, where a frivolous nightclub scene consisted of drinking, dancing, and gambling. This scene represented the corruption by capitalism, reinforced by microbes and diseases in the ellipse above. Socialism was represented on the right, contrasting differently from capitalism. A portrait of Lenin joined together the hands of multiracial figures, a soldier and two workers (figure 2). Rivera presented Lenin as the symbol of Communism, as opposed to Stalin. The ellipse above this scene revealed constellations and other cosmic imagery along with Mars, which contained a hidden hammer and sickle, a symbol associated with the Russian Revolution. The bottom ellipse had a mass of dark cancer cells in which Rivera claimed symbolized the cancerous cell of Stalinism. Moving outward from these scenes, magnifying glasses on each side revealed the capitalist and socialist societies to the viewer. The upper left section of the wall depicted a scene of chemical warfare containing figures wearing gasmasks. Beneath the scene of chemical warfare were unemployment protests near Wall Street. These scenes were contrasted with a Communist May Day festivity on the right and female track hurdlers…show more content…
Some historians have called this new mural Rivera’s “artistic revenge” as a result of the controversy in New York. The recreation of the mural in a new architectural setting as well as the addition of other figures, has altered the initial meaning of the mural. Rivera added a portrait of John D. Rockefeller to the capitalist section, near venereal diseases, and added Marx and Trotsky to the socialist section. The mural at Rockefeller Center may have overshadowed the controversy at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which was commissioned before the RCA mural in 1932. The situation at Rockefeller Center embodied conflicts between patron and artist in a broader public scandal. However, Rivera’s mural in Detroit was criticized by various publics and may have set the stage for the controversy at Rockefeller Center. Censorship was avoided at the Detroit Institute of Arts due to the support of the Ford family, Arts Commission of Detroit, and William Valentiner, the director of the

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