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‘Diego Rivera’s America’ Brings Together 150 of the Artist’s Works in San Francisco

Beginning July 16, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents Diego Rivera’s America, the most in-depth examination of the artist’s work in over two decades. Diego Rivera’s America brings together more than 150 of Rivera’s paintings, frescoes and drawings—as well as three galleries devoted to large-scale film projections of highly influential murals he created in Mexico and the U.S. On view thru January 2, 2023, the exhibition focuses on his work from the 1920s to the mid-1940s, the richest years of Rivera’s prolific career. During these two key decades, Rivera created a new vision for North America, informed by his travels in Mexico and the United States.

Diego Rivera, Self-Portrait, 1941; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, gift of Irene Rich Clifford; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo © 2022 Christies Images Limited

“Rivera was one of the most aesthetically, socially and politically ambitious artists of the 20th century,” notes guest curator James Oles. “He was deeply concerned with transforming society and shaping identity—Mexican identity, of course, but also American identity, in the broadest sense of the term. Because of his utopian belief in the power of art to change the world, Rivera is an essential artist to explore anew today, from a contemporary perspective.”

Diego Rivera, Girl in Blue and White, 1939; The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: courtesy Sotheby’s, New York

Diego Rivera’s America builds on SFMOMA’s collection of over 70 works by Rivera, one of the largest in the world. It also features paintings, drawings and frescoes borrowed from public and private collections in Mexico, the U.S. and the U.K., reuniting many for the first time since the artist’s death. Iconic and much-loved works, such as The Corn Grinder (1926), Dance in Tehuantepec (1928), Flower Carrier (1935) and Portrait of Lupe Marín (1938), will be shown alongside paintings that have not been seen publicly since leaving the artist’s studio.

Diego Rivera, Woman with Calla Lilies, 1945; private collection, U.S.A.; courtesy Galeria Interart; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Scott Cramer

The exhibition is the first to examine Rivera’s work thematically, with galleries dedicated to places like Tehuantepec and Manhattan that captured his imagination, and to his favorite subjects, such as street markets, popular celebrations and images of industry. It begins with Rivera’s first mural commission,Creation (1922–23), a project that—like much of his work—looks to past artistic traditions while also embracing avant-garde strategies. In the 1920s, working mainly in Mexico, Rivera established his mature style, distinguished by rounded forms, intense colors, and increasingly dense compositions. He cemented an interest in allegory, popular culture, family, labor, and the proletarian revolution, themes that would be central to his famous murals in San Francisco, Detroit and New York of the early 1930s, and that would resonate in his paintings and drawings through the 1940s.

Ansel Adams, Diego Rivera Painting the Fresco “Still Life and Blossoming Almond Trees” [formerly at Sigmund Stern House, Atherton, California], 1930–31; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Albert M. Bender Collection, gift of Albert M. Bender; © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

The culmination of the exhibition is Rivera’s last U.S. mural, a colossal work measuring 22 feet high by 74 feet wide, painted for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1940. The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on the Continent—commonly known as Pan American Unity—is free to all visitors to view in SFMOMA’s Roberts Family Gallery. This 10-panel portable fresco, onloan from City College of San Francisco until 2024, explores his vision of a shared history and future forMexico and the U.S.

Diego Rivera, Hombre fumando (Man Smoking), 1937; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, gift of Cole Porter; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: courtesy Williams College Museum of Art

Diego Rivera, Untitled [Head of a Miner], 1930–31; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Carl James; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Diego Rivera, Mrs. Helen Wills Moody, 1930; Tate, presented by the Earl of Huntingdon 1958; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: © Tate

San Francisco was particularly important to Rivera; it was the first place he painted murals in the U.S. Likewise, his work was deeply influential to artists and muralists across the Bay Area. Through their work, Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo became deeply connected to local cultural figures. San Francisco was also where Rivera and Kahlo remarried in 1940, after their brief divorce. The exhibition will present portraits of their wide circle of friends in San Francisco, including three important paintings by Frida Kahlo.

Diego Rivera, Weaving, 1936; Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Josephine Wallace KixMiller in memory of her mother, Julie F. Miller; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

Diego Rivera’s America features two galleries dedicated to Rivera’s San Francisco projects, with preparatory drawings for two murals from 1930–31: Allegory of California and The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City. The exhibition will also incorporate Rivera’s portable fresco Still Life and Blossoming Almond Trees(1931), originally painted for a private home and now in the collection of the University of California, Berkeley. Brought together for the first time, these works provide unparalleled insight into Rivera’s time in San Francisco and highlight the artist’s role in helping to establish a legacy of politically engaged muralism that remains an indelible part of the city’s identity and built environment.

Diego Rivera, Tehuanas in the Market, 1935; collection of the Tobin Theater Arts Fund; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy: McNay Art Museum

Diego Rivera’s America spotlights paintings that depict life in Mexico and in the U.S. and concludes with the vast Pan American Unity fresco that unites both countries. Rivera’s work invites us to consider the past while also asserting the power of art to envision solutions to cultural, economic and political challenges and shape the present.

Diego Rivera, La tortillera (The Tortilla Maker), 1926; University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine Dean’s Office at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Index Fototeca/Bridgeman Images

Diego Rivera, Study for Germination [Tina Modotti], 1926; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Albert M. Bender Collection, gift of Albert M. Bender; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Diego Rivera, Dance in Tehuantepec, 1928; collection Eduardo F. Costantini, Buenos Aires; © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

For more, visit www.sfmoma.org


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