Detroiters defend Institute of Arts

This video from the USA says about itself:

6 Oct 2013

Hundreds of Detroit-area workers, students, retirees and artists attended a rally called by the Socialist Equality Party and International Youth and Students for Social Equality to fight the threats from Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to sell off art from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

More endorsements for DIA campaign against the sale of art: here.

When Diego Rivera arrived in Detroit in April 1932 to create what he was later to consider his greatest work, the Detroit Industry murals, he entered an extraordinarily charged political and social environment. Such were the tensions in the city that the painting itself became a major political event. Rivera called the struggle over the murals’ production “the Battle of Detroit”: here.

Downtown Detroit tenants facing eviction support demonstration to save the DIA: here.

On Saturday scores of representatives from tenant councils in buildings throughout the downtown Detroit area held a march and rally to oppose the attacks on decent and affordable housing for veterans, seniors and the disabled. Many who attended were in walkers and wheelchairs: here.

Diego Rivera exhibition in New York

By Clare Hurley in the USA:

Diego Rivera at the Museum of Modern Art: Then and now—revolutionary art for revolutionary times

21 December 2011

Diego Rivera murals for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City

November 13, 2011 through May 14, 2012

The Museum of Modern Art’s curators could hardly have known that Occupy Wall Street protesters would be evicted from their encampment in downtown Manhattan the same week that their exhibition of Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) opened in November, but the coincidence has been widely commented on.

Rivera’s name has become virtually synonymous with epic murals of social revolution in the first decades of the 20th century. Given the appropriate update, his image of a soldier lunging, sword drawn, across a woman and child to attack a crowd of workers in The Uprising, might have been drawn from today’s news.

Diego Rivera, The Uprising

In this context, the modest scale of the exhibit at MoMA might be a disappointment, especially when compared to the exhaustive retrospectives that the museum regularly awards to major artists from the modernist canon. (Coinciding with the Rivera exhibit, a much larger show of Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning took up the museum’s entire sixth floor.)

However, the impact of the Rivera murals, under conditions where the first significant social struggles in several decades are erupting in the United States, is not diminished by the exhibit’s size. …

Another section of the exhibition is devoted to the ill-fated mural Man at the Crossroads. While at work on the MoMA murals, Rivera received the commission to create one for Rockefeller Center, then under construction, which appears at the center of Frozen Assets.

Abby Rockefeller’s son, Nelson [the youthful future governor of New York and US vice president], and his advisors determined the mural’s subject: “Man at the crossroads and looking with uncertainty but with hope and high vision to the choosing of a course leading to a new and better future.” The pompous ambiguity of the theme was echoed by similar verbiage in Rivera’s proposal. He then proceeded to design a mural showing humanity’s liberation from tyranny and war through what seemed at the time to be fantastical technology. The mock-up for the mural includes cinema cameras, televisions, space ships, etc.

Lest the point be missed that this rational, humane, egalitarian society would be a socialist one, Rivera planned to show a progression from a decadent party scene of millionaires, including a possible likeness of the famously teetotalling John D. Rockefeller, Sr. on the left to one of Lenin leading the working class to victory on the right.

Despite what Kahlo described as “Mrs. R.’s radical taste,” this proved too much for Rivera’s “enlightened” industrialist patrons to take. There’s been debate over which straw actually broke the camel’s back. But in his letter objecting to the inclusion of Lenin, Nelson Rockefeller got to the gist:

“If it were in a private house it would be one thing, but this is in a public building, and the situation is therefore quite different.”

When Rivera refused to replace Lenin’s likeness with that of an “unknown man”, the Rockefellers decided it was time to call a halt to their flirtation with “Red” artists, even as social tensions in the United States entered a far more explosive stage.

In May 1933, Rivera was fired from the project, and mounted police were stationed outside Rockefeller Center to break up the demonstrations that erupted in response.

Cristeo war in Mexico: here.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera on Mexican money

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to be reunited on Mexican bill

August 30, 2010 | 3:47 pm

The Bank of Mexico said Monday it would place in circulation a new 500-peso bill featuring the well-known faces of two of the country’s best-known artists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In the bank’s official video to promote the bill’s anti-counterfeiting features (embedded above in Spanish), two figures resembling the celebrity couple stroll in costume around traditional and modern sites in Mexico.

The previous face on the 500-peso bill was Ignacio Zaragoza, hero of the Battle of Puebla. Milenio reports that in 2006, efforts to replace his face on the note were resisted in Congress. This time, the Bank of Mexico said it had the autonomy to change the look of Mexico’s currency as it bolsters efforts to combat money laundering and counterfeiting. …

The faces of Rivera and Kahlo appear on opposite sides of the new bill, along with reproductions of works by them. The note has six anti-fraud features, including a watermark and relief text. In September, Mexico begins celebrating 100 years since the start of the revolution and 200 years since declaring independence from Spain.

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Fortunately, not all central banks in the world put pictures of anti-Semitic politicians on their money, like in Romania

Frida Kahlo retrospective in Berlin—Part 1: The “Kahlo myth” and the reality: here.

Frida Kahlo retrospective in Berlin—Part 2: Frida Kahlo and communism: here.

Siân Ruddick visits a new exhibition of the art and revolutionary politics of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: here.

United States artist Bernard Zakheim

Bernard Zakheim, mural about a public library

From Art for a Change blog in the USA:

The Art of Bernard Zakheim

Enthusiasts of American social realism are generally familiar with the outstanding murals that were painted in 1934 on the interior walls of San Francisco’s Coit Tower. Few however, can name a single artist out of the twenty-six that worked on the murals inside the splendid Art Deco tower. One of those artists was Bernard Baruch Zakheim (1896-1985), a Jewish immigrant from Poland who would make San Francisco, California his home in 1920, becoming active in the Jewish community and the city’s bohemian circles of artists and left-wing activists. A number of Zakheim’s works are now on exhibit at the A Shenere Velt Gallery on the Westside of Los Angeles until October 23, 2009.

Bernard Zakheim, Executions in the stadium, watercolour, 1939, against Francoism in Spain

Titled Bernard Baruch Zakheim: Paris, San Francisco and Beyond, the exhibition is made up of 24 paintings and drawings created by the artist from the early 30s to the late 50s. I attended the opening of the exhibit and was pleased to meet the artist’s son, Nathan Zakheim, who regaled me with tales of his father’s life and work. It was a fortuitous encounter that gave me further insight into the creative output of Bernard Zakheim. Consisting mostly of sketches, watercolors, and studies for murals never created, the exhibition presents works that have rarely, if ever, been shown in public. …

Bernard Baruch Zakheim’s life as an artist was set in motion when he was a young man in Poland, but one could say that his professional career actually began once he settled in San Francisco. In June of 1930 he organized the city’s First Yiddish Art Exhibition, a showing of Jewish painters, sculptors, poets, and composers from San Francisco. He had developed a fascination with the socially engaged artists of the Mexican Muralist Movement, and was particularly interested in Diego Rivera, and so he sent the Mexican muralist a portfolio of drawings for comradely appraisal – a deed that would end up transforming Zakheim forever. Rivera would invite Zakheim to his studio in Mexico City, and when the two met in 1930 Rivera praised Zakheim’s drawings of Jewish life, commenting that “every artist puts into his work something of his own soil, of his own people.” Zakheim worked with Rivera long enough to know that his future lay in creating public works of art that were challenging in nature.

After his encounter with Rivera, Zakheim would make a sojourn to Paris, France in 1931, where he created a number of sketches and watercolors. A few of these are included in the exhibit, like the spontaneously painted watercolor portrait, American Girl in Paris, and Student Scholar, which provides a depiction of Orthodox Jewry in Paris just prior to the Nazi occupation of 1940. Zakheim returned to San Francisco in ‘32, receiving his first mural commission a year later from the newly-built Jewish Community Center at the intersection of California Street and Presidio Avenue. While Zakheim was a secular Jew absorbed in socialist politics, he always thought it important to highlight Jewish culture and heritage in his art, and so his mural for the center was a celebration of Jewish life. The mural depicted a festive Jewish wedding celebration, with rabbis, wedding couple, musicians, dancers, and athletes. The press wrote good reviews about the mural, no doubt pleased that the bohemian left-winger had avoided doing something controversial – but that would soon change.

In 1933 Zakheim and fellow artist Ralph Stackpole lobbied the government for a commission that would allow artists to paint murals on the interior walls of San Francisco’s newly constructed Coit Tower. Their efforts paid off when in 1934 the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) gave twenty-six artists – Zakheim and Stackpole included – the task of creating the Coit murals under the direction of Victor Arnautoff.

Zakheim chose to depict a U.S. public library in his mural – it would become his most well-known and contentious work. He painted a number of his friends into the mural, like the anarchist poet Kenneth Rexroth, depicted on a ladder reaching for a book on a top shelf. In the upper-right corner of the mural Zakheim painted the modernist sculptor Beniamino Bufano reading a paper with the headline, B. Bufano’s St. Francis Just Around The Corner. It was a reference to Bufano’s 18-foot granite statue of St. Francis of Assissi; a sculpture finally set in place in front of the Church of St. Francis in San Francisco on August 27, 1955. Bufano was certainly a colorful character; thoroughly bohemian, but a devout Roman Catholic in addition to being an anarcho-pacifist. When President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany in 1917, Bufano chopped off the trigger finger of his right hand and mailed it to the president as a protest against America’s entry into the war.

Zakheim also worked fellow Coit Tower muralist and friend John Langley Howard into The Library – reaching for a copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Zakheim was twice asked by officials to obliterate the reference to Marx from his mural, and his refusal to do so almost scuttled the entire project. Ultimately Zakheim’s stubbornness prevailed and Das Kapital remained.

Starting in 1940 Zakheim began a series of remarkable easel paintings titled Jewish Patriots of the American Revolution. The works revealed and commemorated the historic role of Jews in the anti-colonial American Revolution waged against the British Empire. When American patriots began the Revolutionary War of Independence against Great Britain, there were fewer than 2,000 Jews living in the 13 colonies, and the majority of them championed and fought for the anti-colonial cause. Zakheim wanted people to remember that history, and so began his group of paintings. One of the canvases was titled, Revolutionary Patriot Chaim Soloman revealing secrets of Red Coat military activities to an American Officer.

Australia: Sam Bullock, art and revolution in motion: here.

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