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A Selection of Murals Made by Diego Rivera During the 1930s to Be Shown at MoMA

August 18, 2011

Diego Rivera, Frozen Assets. 1931-32. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 93 ¾ x 74” (238 x 88 cm). Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico © 2011 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, México, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- For the exhibition Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA will reunite five “portable murals”-freestanding frescoes with bold images commemorating events in Mexican history-that were made for a monographic exhibition of the artist’s work at the Museum in 1931. On view from November 13, 2011, to May 14, 2012, the exhibition will also feature three eight-foot working drawings, a prototype “portable mural” made in 1930, as well as smaller working drawings, watercolors, and prints by Rivera. It will also include design drawings for his infamous Rockefeller Center mural, a project Rivera began to discuss with the Rockefellers while in residence at the Museum. Comprising works from MoMA’s collection and loans from private and public collections in the United States and Mexico, Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art is organized by Leah Dickerman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art. MoMA is the exhibition’s sole venue.

In organizing the 1931 exhibition, the Museum had to solve a key problem-how to present the work of this famous muralist when murals were by definition made and fixed on site. In light of these circumstances, the Museum invited Rivera to New York six weeks before the opening, and gave him studio space in an empty gallery in the Museum’s original building. Working around the clock with three assistants, Rivera produced five “portable murals”-large blocks of frescoed plaster, concrete, and steel that feature bold images commemorating Mexican history and addressing themes of revolution and class inequity. After the exhibition’s opening, Rivera added three more murals, now taking on New York subjects through monumental images of the urban working class and the social stratification of the city during the Great Depression. All eight were on display for the duration of the exhibition’s run; the first of these panels, Agrarian Leader Zapata, later joined MoMA’s collection, and is now a familiar icon on the Museum’s walls.

Focused specifically on works made during the artist’s stay in New York, Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art creates a succinct portrait of Rivera as a highly cosmopolitan figure who moved between Europe, Mexico, and the United States, and offers a fresh look at the intersection of art making and radical politics in the 1930s. The five murals from the 1931 retrospective that will be on view in Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art are: Agrarian Leader Zapata (1931), Indian Warrior (1931), The Uprising (1931), Frozen Assets (1932), and Electric Power (1932). The three remaining murals in the series are Liberation of the Peon (1931), Sugar Cane (1931), and Pneumatic Drilling (1932).

Accompanying the murals and drawings, the exhibition will feature archival materials, including designs and photographs drawn from MoMA’s archives, related to the commission and production of the works

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