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‘Diego Rivera’s America’ at SFMOMA Ruminates on the Politics of Labor Through Intimate Portraits & Epic Murals

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‘Weaving’ by Diego Rivera (1936). | Courtesy of SFMOMA In class struggle, the poor and working class are often defined as faceless, homogenous hordes. For an example, look no further than the way a certain, recent president talked about the United States’ migrant workforce. Whether in small paintings or massive murals, Diego Rivera (1886-1957) sought to depict the humanity of American workers across the continent.

This is the focus of the new exhibition Diego Rivera’s America , at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the most in-depth examination of the Mexican artist’s work in over two decades. The show is a mix of the murals Rivera produced—which were often laden with overt Communist messaging meant to celebrate workers and educate the public on class consciousness—and his subtler easel paintings showing scenes of everyday life, which make a case for the personal as political, too.

Rivera defined America broadly as “the territory included between two ice barriers of the two poles.” Accordingly, many of the paintings here chronicle his travels throughout Mexico and the United States, documenting the communities he passed through. Rather than follow a chronological progression, however, the 100-plus artworks on view—many of them being exhibited publicly for the […]

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