“Every good composition is above all a work of abstraction. All good painters know this. But the painter cannot dispense with subjects altogether without his work suffering impoverishment. ”
- Diego Rivera
On Feb. 12, the Migration and Globalization and Social Work students embarked on a field trip to the Palace of Cortés. The Palace, which is located in the heart of Cuernavaca, was originally built as a place of residence for Hernán Cortés and his wife. Later, it was converted into a historical and archaeological museum. Although the museum houses an array of historical objects, it is arguably best known for housing Diego Rivera’s mural “La conquista y revolución” (The History of Morelos, Conquest, and Revolution).
The mural, which was commissioned by U.S. Ambassador Dwight Morrow and painted by Rivera from 1929-1930, was created with the goal of popular education. After our visit to the mural, I can attest to Rivera’s success in doing so. I found one scene particularly striking (see photo). The image depicts the conquistadores attempts to cross into Cuernavaca. With “La conquista y revolución”, Rivera offered the Mexican people the opportunity to learn about their nation’s tumultuous history-from the Spanish conquest to the Mexican Revolution-through his brilliantly colored imagery.
|Scene from Rivera's mural|
In fact it was this artistry that solidified Rivera’s place as one of the most influential muralists from the 20th century. Along with Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rivera used imagery to tell a story. He used his paint brush to depict the peoples’ social struggles as well as highlight their achievements. Having the opportunity to not only admire, but also analyze Rivera’s mural was a great privilege and it provided the perfect foundation for our next encounter with Mexican muralism in Tepoztlán.
Nearly 100 years after the Muralist Movement started in the 1920s, it is evident that muralism is still a preferred and powerful art form in Mexico. Like the murals first painted by “the three great ones”, the more recent pieces were created with the intention of sharing a story. And like the original murals, they have been effective in taking on political and social issues and evoking social change.
|Mural in Tepoztlan against the federal highway project. It says: Conserve, care for, and respect your traditions. No to the widening of the highway!|
On Feb. 20, we took a trip to Tepoztlán to analyze some modern murals that were created in response to the proposed development of the highway project "La Pera Cuautla.” Colorful murals depicting various social struggles draped the walls throughout the city. Although the artists approached each mural differently, their message was united in its opposition to the project.
Can you think of another artist who has used their art medium to send a political message or evoke social change?
-- Devon Arndt