Tuesday, May 1, 2012
You still have about two more weeks to see the show, Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art (at MoMA) before it closes on May 14. The exhibit assembles material from the exhibit of Rivera murals some 80 years ago. In 1931, MoMA brought Rivera to New York, where he, with the help of two assistants, created the murals on site, at the museum, a mere six weeks before the exhibit opened. Five murals were ready for the opening and three more were created during the run of the show.
In addition to the mural panels, preparatory sketches and supporting archival material on view, there are 45 pages from a Rivera sketchbook. In 1927, The Soviet government invited the Mexican muralist for the May Day celebrations on the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The watercolor and crayon sketches document the crowds the pageantry, and an ordinary family preparing for the festivities of the day. The connection of the May Day sketches to the MoMA murals, however, was not aesthetic, but financial. It was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s purchase of the sketchbook that helped fund Rivera’s trip to New York for the 1931 show.
Kevin Kinsella of the blog New First Unexpected points out that the sketchbook had another mural connection, though not one related to MoMA. Apparently, Rivera was to create a mural in the reception room of the Red Army’s High Command. The May Day sketchbook, though impressive as visual reportage, was intended rather, as preparatory work for the commission.
MoMA has all the sketchbook pages online.