Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera was born December 8th, 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico.
In 1907, Rivera arrived in Europe & went to study in Barcelona, Spain, & from there proceeded to Paris where he lived & worked with great artists. Paris in that time was experiencing the emergence of cubism in paintings like Picasso. So from 1913 to 1918 Rivera himself embraced this new style of art. His painting began to attract attention around this time, & he was able to display them at several exhibitions.
In 1920, Rivera left France & returned to Mexico in 1921, where he continued his career as an artist. Around this time, he became involved in the new Mexican mural movement, experimenting with fresco painting on large walls. He soon developed his own unique style, with simple figures & bold colors.
Around this time, Rivera also became interested in left-wing politics. When he painted his first mural, he chose ethnic Mexican subjects in a political context. Many of Rivera's murals deal with Mexican society & that country's Revolution. His political beliefs, some called "radical", his attacks on the church (he became an atheist), as well as his conversing with left-wing assassins & Trotskyists, made him quite the controversial figure even in Communist circles.
His relationship with the Communist Party was long, complicated & stormy. Right-wing students protested against murals before they were even finished, but Rivera refused to stop work, & was often the only artist left working on his murals, with a pistol stuck in his waistband!
Around this time, he met the amazing Frida Khalo, an artist herself. She became his 2nd wife. Rivera became quite famous & started a second series of murals, which attracted the attention from people abroad. Rivera was invited to go to Russia, for the 10th anniversary of the Revolution. But in Russia, he did not get along with the assistants assigned to help him with his murals, & soon the mural was at a standstill.
Rivera was ordered back to Mexico by the Latin American Secretariat of the Cominterm right before his expulsion from the Communist Party in 1929.
In 1930 Rivera was invited to go to the United States, where he eventually moved to New York after exhibitions in other states. There he was asked to paint a mural for the RCA building, part of the Rockefeller Center. But Rivera pissed off the patrons & Rockefeller by featuring a portrait of Lenin in his mural, which was supposed to depict "Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future". Work was abruptly stopped & Rivera was told to change the mural or cease painting. He declined & was fired so to speak, but paid in full. His amazing work was covered & then destroyed.
Between 1935-1943 he recieved no goverment commissions & only got a job painting a mural for the new Hotel Reforma in Mexico City, but here to, was a disagreement & as a result the mural was altered without his consent. Rivera was able to file a lawsuit for damages & won.
Since Rivera's expulsion from the Communist Party, he had sided with the Trotskyites, & when Trotsky & his wife arrived in Mexico, Rivera & Khalo welcomed them into their home. Frida had a short affair with Trotsky while he stayed in their home, but this came after quite a few affairs on Rivera'a part. Rivera & Khalo divorced, but eventually got back together.
The late 1940's is when Rivera tried to get back into the Communist Party, to no avail. He fought with Trotsky before his assassination, & had the Mexican police suspicious that he created that crime. In 1946, Rivera made an attempt to win the Communist Party's forgiveness by denouncing himself as a bad Communist. But yet again, he was rejected by the Party. He tried a few years later, & was rejected again. The Party was upset at him for not only siding with Trotsky, but for painting an unflattering portrait of Stalin. Rivera understood this & when he was asked to paint for the Mexican Exhibition in Paris in 1952, he produced a pro-Stalinist, anti-Western propaganda piece. The Mexican goverment refused to exhibit it for it's insults towards the French goverment.
In September 1954, Rivera was finally accepted back into the Communist Party, but it was bitter-sweet, for earlier in the year his beloved Frida Khalo had passed away due to many complications arriving from her accident as a young woman.
Rivera died 3 years later on November 24th, 1957.
Diego Rivera is this week's Revolutionary Of The Week for his innovative art, as well as his leftist politics. Rivera always stood by his convictions, & refused to alter his art for anyone, even if it meant that his beautiful artwork that took so long to create, would be destroyed.