Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Frozen Assets or Occupy Wall Street?

Frozen Assets, mural by Diego Rivera 1932 on display at MoMa

Diego Rivera at the Museum of Modern Art in New York 

by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt

This weekend my daughter and I went to see the Diego Rivera Mural exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art which is on display until May 14, 2012. What  struck us about the Mexican's art was his affinity to his cultural roots, his political leanings toward communism and most importantly how relevant his art still is today. My daughter and I attended a group discussion as part of the MoMa's Tours for Tweens series. One of the parent in our group, who was of Latino descent, pointed out that the  artwork was created by a Hispanic man, maintained largely by minority custodians and security in the museum but the visitors and consumers of the art are for a largely white audience. A Russian visitor in our group passionately hypothesized that had Rivera lived into the later part of the last century he would have quit painting when communism collapsed.  Although his work was inspired by communist sympathies at that time, Rivera would have found plenty of social commentary in today's world as well.

For example, in Frozen Assets, Rivera juxtaposed his appreciation for New York’s distinctive vertical architecture with a powerful critique of the city's economic inequities. The panel’s upper register features a dramatic sequence of largely recognizable skyscrapers, most completed within a few years of Rivera’s arrival in New York. The central skyscraper is the Rockefeller Center building which was under construction during Rivera's arrival to New york. Other building in the compressed skyline are the Chrysler, Mc Graw Hill, Wall Street landmarks such as Banker's Trust and Irving Trust, Daily News and the Empire State Building.

In the middle section, a steel-and-glass shed serves as a homeless shelter for rows of sleeping men who probably also acted as the chief laborers in building these giant skyscrapers. Below, a bank’s waiting room accommodates a guard, a clerk, and figures inspecting their money. As on the Museum's website "Rivera’s jarring vision of the city—in which the masses trudge to work, the homeless are warehoused, and the wealthy squirrel away their money—struck a chord in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression." This artwork reminds one of the tented and sleeping figures in "Occupy Wall Street" just outside today's same buildings. 

During Your Visit

Diego Rivera is a small exhibition so until January you can also see the deKooning exhibit on the top floor. The MoMa cafe is a favorite treat of ours. We love the gourmet food and sitting at the museum's windows on the second floor. A short walk from Grand Central, you can pass the Rockefeller Christmas tree on your way out. Don't forget that Diego Rivera has gorgeous murals inside the lobby of Rockefeller Center, a must see.
Looking for a New York Gift? Check out paintings and prints of New York!

What do you love about holiday time in New York?