DIEGO RIVERA ( 1886-1957)MEXICAN MURALISM REVOLUTIONARY ART, SOCIALIST REALISM AND STALINISM. A MARXIST PERSPECTIVE.BY LAURENCE HUMPHRIES:PART 2.

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In the Second part of my discussion of Diego Rivera and Mexican Muralism I will be concentrating on his struggle with Mexican Stalinism.  After his expulsion from the Mexican Communist Party Rivera drew closer to Trotskyism and Revolutionary Communism.

Kettenmann comments on Rivera’s breaking politically with Mexican Stalinism.

“Both politically and artistically Rivera was now in a difficult situation. he had been rejected by the Soviet union, the political ideals of which had played a central part in the themes of his murals for a number of years”. [1].

” He had been expelled from the Moscow orientated Mexican Communist party as a counter-Revolutionary artist who would not toe the line”.[2].

After his return from the United States Rivera’s differences with Stalinism continued.

” Rivera’s differences with the Mexican Communist Party continued after his return from the United states and he was once again reproached for representing the conservative positions of the government”. [3].

” He repeatedly clashed in public with David Alfaro Siquerious ( A GPU  agent who led the first attack on Leon Trotsky at Coyocan in August 1940), now as ever an energetic advocate of the Stalinist line”. [4].

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Kettenmann explains the reasons for Rivera’s break with Stalinism and it was of course his attraction to Trotskyism.

” Rivera for the first time revealed his reasons for breaking with the Mexican Communist party and his new orientation towards the Trotskyist opposition”. [5].

“In 1933 during his stay in New York he had got in touch with the Communist League of America ( American section of the Fourth International) and painted frescos for both it and the New York workers school”. [6].

The Museum of Modern art in New York nicknamed the ‘Cube’ Building arranged an exhibition for Rivera and other Mexican Muralists in 1931 while he was in the United states.

“By the late 1920’s Rivera was one of the most influential artists working anywhere in the America’s , widely admired for his  unrivalled mastery  of the fresco technique and uplifting visualisation of Mexican national identity”. [7].

“In 1931 the Museum of Modern art (MOMA) mounted a survey exhibition devoted to the work of Diego Rivera only the 2nd artist after Henri Matisse to be so honoured”. [8].

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One of the images I have displayed is of Emiliano Zapata the Mexican Peasant revolutionary leader. Rivera’s depiction of Zapata found great resonance amongst the viewing public who went to view the art work at the MOMA.

” Such was Rivera’s estimation of general Emiliano Zapata as the embodiment of the noblest forces of the Mexican revolution that he depicted him several times in the 1920’s murals”. [9].

Rivera in 1932 wrote an article called The revolution of spirit in Modern art in which it is clear that Rivera rejected the formal stilted art called Socialist realism.

” Art is a social creation , it manifests division in accordance with the division of classes”. [10].

” There is bourgeois art , there is Revolutionary art and there is peasant art but there is not properly speaking a proletarian art. The proletariat produces art of struggle but no class can produce Art until it has reached the highest point of development”. [11].

Rivera’s last statement was a riposte to Socialist realism and its glorification of the great leader. Supporting Trotsky and Lenin who disagreed with the Prolecult movement which stated that there could only be Proletarian art. These  young artists who represented the flowering of Soviet art in the 1920’s were used by Bureaucratic Stalinism to distort  art and destroy Artists, most of whom were executed during the worst excesses of the Terror that Stalinism unleashed in the 1930’s .

” (Russian avant-garde artists) carried on a truly heroic struggle to make that art accessible to the Russian masses. they worked under conditions of famine , the strain of revolution and counter-revolution and all the material and economic difficulties imaginable”.[12].

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Continuing his discussion on Mural art Rivera makes some important points.

” Mural art is the most significant art for the proletariat. In Russia mural paintings are projected on the walls of Clubs , of union headquarters and even on the walls of the factories, but the easel picture is an object of Luxury quite Beyond the means of the proletariat”. [13].

Rivera has made an important statement here. It is Ironic that most of the Visitors to the MOMA are not the Proletariat that every Marxist espouses but the  Middle class who have the luxury and time to spend looking at Rivera’s murals and Frescos.

” Bourgeois art will cease to develop when the bourgeois as a class is destroyed”. [14].

Rivera establishes once and for all that Art is Propagandist art in the service of the Revolution . Soviet Revolutionary Constructivists like Tatlin , Rodchenko and Lizzistsky all realised this and displayed  their art for the Revolution. I have written about Soviet Constructivism in a previous article on my blog.

” The familiar accusation that propaganda ruins art  finds its source in bourgeois prejudice. Naturally enough the bourgeois does not want Art employed for the sake of the revolution”. [15].

” I want to be a propagandist and I want to be nothing else. I want to be a propagandist of communism and I want it to be all that I can think, in all I can speak , In all that I can write and in all that I can paint. I want to use my art as a weapon”. [16].

This concludes the second part of my article on Mexican Muralism  and Rivera. Rivera has now shown that he understands in his writing what it is to be a true revolutionary communist . In his Art which rejected Socialist Realism (Stalinist Art) he moved closer to Trotsky’s position on the true significance of artistic truth and to reject the filthy lies of Stalinism and its so called cultural Ambassadors. In Part 3 I will discuss further Trotsky’s writings on art and revolution. His arrival in Mexico assisted by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera who petitioned the Mexican Government to allow Trotsky to spend his exile  in Mexico City.

FOOTNOTES

  1. RIVERA: ANDREA KETTENMANN.TASCHEN BOOKS.PG.57
  2. DITTO.PG.57
  3. DITTO.PG.63
  4. DITTO.PG.63
  5. DITTO.PG.63
  6. DITTO.PG.63-4
  7. DIEGO RIVERA , DAVID ALFARO SIGUEIROS , JOSE CLEMENTE OROZCO. THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART NEW YORK .PG.13
  8. DITTO.PG.15
  9. DITTO.PG.15
  10. ART IN THEORY 1900-2000: EDITED BY CHARLES HARRISON AND PAUL WOOD: THE REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT IN MODERN ART (1932) DIEGO RIVERA. PG.420
  11. DITTO.PG.420
  12. DITTO.PG.423
  13. DITTO.PG.424
  14. DITTO.PG.424
  15. DITTO.PG.424
  16. DITTO.PG.424

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