Detroit – Part II

Detroit Industry Murals, Diego Rivera,1932, Detroit Institute of Arts

The Mitchnick “Gang of 4” continued onward to the Detroit Institute of Arts; one of my favorite places in the city. Nancy had set up a private presentation of the Diego Rivera murals. If you’ve never been to the DIA or seen these incredible murals in person – you really must! I wish I could remember the name of the docent — he’s a lawyer by day and volunteers at the DIA part-time. What a crazy dichotomy! He was so knowledgeable about the Murals — Not only did we learn about the rich history, he also showed us the hidden symbolism Diego had painted into his work and told us a few stories to boot. I wish I had recorded it!

Four walls. Twenty-seven paintings. Nine months of labor-intensive work.

In 1932, Diego was commissioned by the DIA and Edsel Ford to paint two large murals for the Garden Court with the understanding that the work must relate to the history of Detroit and the development of industry. The investors knew hiring a Mexican artist during the Depression would be controversial, but the men were very impressed with his work and went forward. Frida and Diego packed up and headed East in the summer of 1932 and were in Detroit for almost a year.

Using the ancient fresco technique, Rivera and his workers created the complex murals spanning the four enormous walls. Diego depicted multiple modern industries and technologies historically rooted in the ancient Mexican Aztec people. All while weaving in controversial scenes that questioned technology’s place in the world — both socially and politically.

When the murals were finally unveiled in 1933, many people objected and said they were crude, vulgar, and blasphemous. Apparently, Edsel Ford never publicly commented on the matter, but he did issue a statement saying “I admire Rivera’s spirit. I really believe he was trying to express his idea of the spirit of Detroit.”

When Frida and Diego arrived in Detroit, she was pregnant with their child and she hated the city! It was hot and stinky near the Rouge Factory where they stayed, and she was bored! Who could blame her? Sadly, Frida lost the baby shortly after they arrived. This proved to be a turning point in her art — after the miscarriage Frida began to paint about her personal life and all its pain — surviving polio as a child and suffering in a horrific bus accident — had left her body a painful mess. This is the Frida that we’ve come to know and love – sometimes I feel that we are soulmates – or the same soul…

Art for Dummies

Originally posted on Justsomething.com

The following is a funny guide that’ll help you link famous painters and their style and paintings together in the future. Even though it was conceived as a joke you will realize how this list captures the essence of each artist, resulting in the end actually useful.

Caravaggio.
If everyone looks like doey-eyed girls, then it’s Caravaggio.
Reubens
If everyone has giant asses, then it’s Reubens.
Dali
If it’s something you saw on your acid trip last night, it’s Dali.
Picasso
If everybody has some sort of body malfunction, then it’s Picasso.
Bruegel
If the paintings have tons of little people in them but otherwise seem normal, it’s Bruegel.
Bosch
If the paintings have lots of little people in them but also have a ton of crazy bullshit, it’s Bosch.
Titan
If the images have a dark background and everyone has tortured expressions on their faces, it’s Titian.
van Eyck
If everyone – including the women – looks like Putin, then it’s van Eyck.
Rembrandt
If everyone looks like hobos illuminated only by a dim streetlamp, it’s Rembrandt.
Michalangelo
If everyone is beautiful, naked, and stacked, it’s Michelangelo.
Boucher
If the painting could easily have a few chubby Cupids or sheep added (or already has them), it’s Boucher.
Degas
If you see a ballerina, it’s Degas.
El Greco
If everything is highly contrasted and sharp, sort of bluish, and everyone has gaunt bearded faces, it’s El Greco.
Monet
Dappled light but no figures, it’s Monet.
Frida
If every painting is the face of a uni-browed woman, it’s Frida.
Renior
Dappled light and happy party-time people, it’s Renoir.
Manet
Dappled light and unhappy party-time people, then it’s Manet.
Mondrian
It it looks like an Excel sheet with colored squares, it’s Mondrian.

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit

The exclusive exhibit of Diego and Frida was at the Detroit Institute of Arts from March 15 to July 12. I had seen the advertising for the event in the winter months and it was definitely a To Do art event.

Frida

My mom is a huge Frida fan and introduced me to her long ago. I had watched the movie, “Frida” with Salma Hayek in 2002 and loved it. Strange enough, as I was channel surfing a few weeks ago I caught the beginning of the movie and proceeded to watch it again in its entirety. Being back into the art world again, I had a new found appreciation for her unique style and subject matter. If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it! You can not truly appreciate her work, unless you know her life story.


DIA Diego & Frida Brochure

Mom and I were determined to see the exhibit, but between busy schedules we had a difficult time putting it on the books. Now that the event was ending, we had no choice but to go on the last day. Note to self: never see an exclusive exhibit on the last day! When we arrived at the DIA, the next available time was 6:30. We walked around the Institute, grabbed a bite to eat and waited for our turn to get in line.

Breadline (Courtesy of Internet)
Breadline (Courtesy of Internet)

The line twisted and turned throughout the museum like a snake. For some reason, standing in long lines feels worse for my body than

walking a mile and I was hurting! Thankfully at some points I found a chair while my mom stayed in the line to keep our place. (Thanks Mommy!) We must have waited for 1 1/2  hours but it seemed more like three and felt more like a 1930’s bread line.

Once we were finally inside we were treated to nearly 70 works of art by both Frida and Diego, including massive drawings from Diego’s plans for the DIA murals, paintings from both artists, and a short movie highlighting their story. According to the website there were 23 paintings from Frida, none of which had been exhibited at the DIA before. Since we were not allowed to take photographs inside the exhibit, I’ve included some of the paintings that we saw.

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were an explosive couple. He carried a pistol. She carried a flask. He romanticized Detroit. She rejected it. But what they shared was a belief in communism, a thirst for tequila and a passion for each other. (DIA Website)

What a couple. What a story. What an exhibit. Thank you Frida and Diego for sharing yourselves and your art with the world!