Diego Rivera’s definition of America went way beyond the borders of the United States.
“I mean by America, the territory included between the ice barriers of the two poles. A fig for your barriers of wire and frontier guards,” the Mexican artist said in 1931.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present Rivera’s vision of Mexico and the United States through Diego Rivera’s America, the most in-depth examination of his work in more than 20 years.
The exhibition, which runs through Jan. 2, 2023, collects over 150 of Rivera’s most famous paintings, frescoes and drawings, with a focus on his work from the 1920s to the mid-1940s. It is the first exhibition to feature his art thematically, with galleries dedicated to locations that captured his imagination – including Tehuantepec and Manhattan – and to his favorite subjects, such as street markets, popular celebrations and images of industry.
Rivera’s work from this period was inspired by his travels through Mexico and the United States. He was intrigued by the similarities of the neighbor countries, and believed they shared a historical foundation in which their indigenous past had been quashed by colonial violence. He was also of the opinion believed they shared a creative force and revolutionary impulse that was not found in Europe.
“Rivera was one of the most aesthetically, socially and politically ambitious artist of the 20th century,” guest curator James Oles said. “He was deeply concerned with transforming society and shaping identity – Mexican identity, of course, but also American identity, in the broadest sense of the term. Because of his utopian belief in the power of art to change the world, Rivera is an essential artist to explore anew today, from a contemporary perspective.”
SFMOMA’s collection of more than 70 of Rivera’s pieces, one of the largest in the world, are bolstered by other works on loan from public and private collections in Mexico, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Among the iconic pieces presented by the exhibit are The Corn Grinder (1926), Dance in the Tehuantepec (1928), Flower Carrier (1935) and Portrait of Lupe Marin (1938).
The exhibit closes with Pan American Unity, the grand mural that is on loan from City College of San Francisco. The 22-foot-high, 74-foot-wide portable fresco depicts Rivera’s vision of a shared history and future for Mexico and the United. He painted it for the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1940, and it turned out to be the last he would make in the United States.
Rivera (1866-1957) also painted his first U.S. murals in San Francisco, and he and wife Frida Kahlo through their art formed a deep connection with the city and local cultural figures. San Francisco was also where the couple remarried in 1940 following a brief divorce. The exhibit also features portraits of their circle of friends in San Francisco, including three paintings by Kahlo.
SFMOMA is conveniently located for Four Seasons residents at 151 Third St., and is open Friday-Tuesday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday from 1-8 p.m. For tickets and further information, visit sfmoma.org.
Photos courtesy of SFMOMA