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Friday Slide Show: Diego Rivera's America Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

1 July 2022

Later this month SFMOMA will exhibit Diego Rivera's America, which will run until Jan. 2, 2023. The exhibition includes over 150 of his paintings, frescoes and drawings plus three galleries devoted to large-scale film projections of murals he created in Mexico and the United States.

San Francisco has three of his murals. And in Feb. 2013 we wrote about them when our nephew and his bride came for a visit.

But we never showed you the photos for some reason. Although we hinted at a possible cause in that article. "They are all bears to photograph," we wrote of the frescoes.

Bad angles, poor lighting, access restrictions.

That was certainly true at the San Francisco Art Institute and the City Club but the most challenging was the Pan American Unity mural at City College, where the mural was displayed in the narrow lobby of the college's theater.

So we thought we'd revisit those images on the occasion of SFMOMA's exhibition.

We happened then to be shooting JPEGs not Raws. But our exposures were pretty good so we focused our Lightroom edits more on our crops with a little Dehazing thrown in to restore the colors.

The best of these images are details of the mural rather than an overview. Here's the overview:

We rest our case.

When we were visiting the mural at City College, we were treated to an explanation of the various groupings (which included several of Rivera's girlfriends as well as his wife Frieda Kahlo, not to mention three self portraits).

Rivera painted the fresco 1940 during the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. After the Exposition, it was later installed at City College (then known as San Francisco Junior College), which had originally commissioned it.

Rivera actually finished the mural three months after the Exposition closed. But the unveiling was quite an event with 32,000 automobiles bringing up to 100,000 visitors to Treasure Island to see it on Sunday, Dec. 1, 1940.

It was intended for a library on the college campus that was never built. So it went into storage until it was given a home in the theater lobby in 1961.

City College deinstalled the mural in the summer of 2021 for conservation and reinforcement by SFMOMA where it has been on display at the museum's free, un-ticketed space, the Roberts Family Gallery, that provides unrestricted access to view the mural and also provides for sidewalk viewing. It will return to a new Diego Rivera Theatre in 2024.

This video shows a meeting of CCSF faculty entrusted with preservation and archiving of this monumental work of art humanities:

E.B. White wrote an amusing little poem in which Rivera played the protagonist called I Paint What I See involving a dispute about the subject matter between the artist and the owner of the wall he was painting (some fellow named Nelson Rockefeller).

Rockefeller complains that it's his wall. To which Rivera responds, "We'll see if it is."

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